Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cellophane Noodle Stir Fry

One of our favorite places to eat in Annapolis is a restaurant named Lemon Grass.  All their food is excellent.

What is amazing to me is the size of the restaurant.  It is very small with a few tables inside and a few tables outside.  In the summer we usually don't have any problems getting a seat but come winter..you better be prepared for a wait and it's a packed wait.  There is maybe a 4X6 foot spot when you first walk in to wait.

I love it because it's a great chance to meet new people.  The tables are very close together and you may even get a  chance to say hello to more new friends…LOL

My favorite dish is the fried duck.  I can't for the life of me figure out how they get the duck slices so crispy.  I have been asked by several friends what I think their secret is and I can't find anything that would give a hint as to what they do.  I know of a friend who knows the owners and even he can't get the "recipe"…LOL

While my mom and sister were in town a few months ago we took them to Lemon Grass.  They had to agree the food was excellent.  My sister always orders this one dish named Pad Woon Sen.  She asked me to come close to reproducing it for her so that she could make it at home.

It wasn't too hard to make because this is a dish that we make a lot, not ever realizing it had a fancy name.

I use a simple sauce of three ingredients.  This sauce I use on most of my asian noodle dishes.  I know that some recipes will call for hoisin sauce or plum sauce.  I personally find these sauces to be too sweet.  I want to taste the noodles, veggie and meat more than the sweet sauces used by some.

Another new favorite I have discovered is Pork Belly.  When we go into our Asian market, they sell it by the pounds.  I could never figure out what it was used for, until now.

I bought some and did some researching in trying to figure out how I prepared the meat.  I found that you cook it similar to a pork chop.  I will tell you how I prepare the pork belly below in the recipe.  You can always use chicken or beef in this recipe.  I just enjoy pork belly, way too much!!!  LOL

I think this recipe fits right into our Simply Gourmet way of eating.  We use wheat free noodles, lots of veggies, a little bit of meat and a few sauces.  It's fresh, beautiful and sure to be enjoyed by the whole family.

This recipe was featured over at Amee's Savory Dish for her Fit and Fabulous Friday feature.  You can see the other links here.

Recipe:  Cellophane (Glass) Noodle Stir Fry

1/2 pound of pork belly, prepared…see below
1  small head of green cabbage, diced into 1x1 inch squares
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 packages of cellophane noodles, prepared according to package
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce (use this sparingly at first)
peanuts to garnish
Cilantro to garnish

NOTE:  There are other things that can be added to the recipe: scrambled eggs, mushrooms, bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, etc.

To prepare the pork belly I use a cast iron pan.  Preheat oven to 350. Score the pork belly across the top of the fatty side every inch.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in pan and add pork belly.  I cook the pork belly until crispy on all sides. Place cast iron pan with seared pork belly into oven to finish cooking.  Cook for 15 minutes until it is no longer pink on the inside. This is the amount of time it should take you to prepare the noodles and veggies.

Prepare your noodles according to the package.

In a saute pan, add sesame oil.  Add your veggies and saute until they are cooked to your liking.  We like our veggies to be al dente, still a little bite to them.

Drain your noodles and add them to the veggies.

Add the dark soy sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce.

Remove pork belly from the stove and slice into bit size pieces, add them to the veggie and noodles.

The noodles can be pretty hard to stir into the dish because they are so long.  I will take a fork and pull the noodles up and cut them with a pair of kitchen scissors.  It makes the dish easier to serve and to eat.

I like to add peanuts and cilantro to my Thai dishes, but it's up to you and your guest.

For cooking pictures, see below:

Pork Belly, cut and ready to add to the noodles and veggies.

Veggies before they are sauteed.

Veggies and Pork Belly awaiting the noodles.

Noodles, veggies and pork belly with sauce.  YUM

Monday, August 13, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Dip

 The very first time I tried a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, I was hooked.

The combination of hot sauce, blue cheese and crunchy celery kept me coming back for more.

I have a tendency to "obsess" a bit about things.  When I find something I like I have no problem eating it over and over, back to back for days.

I like this recipe because it can be made in the crockpot, in the stove or thrown together in the microwave.

I like to cook this dish in the crock pot if I have the time.  I also make a large loaf of warm bread for family and friends. You can find the recipe that I use for the bread here.  I chop extra veggies for those that cannot eat the bread (like me).

I also think that this could be made without the chicken pieces and still taste yummy for your friends that don't eat meat.

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup of green onions, diced
1/2 cup Franks hot sauce
1/2 cup Jack or Cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1.5 cups of cooked,diced chicken
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 celery stalks, diced for garnish
Serve with celery sticks, crackers or fresh bread

I used my crockpot to prepare this dip.  If you wish to use your oven, preheat oven to 350.  Use a pie dish and cook for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

To prepare in the crockpot:  Add cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, green onions and hot sauce.  Combine until mixed, it does not have to be smooth.

Add cheese and chicken. Mix well.

 Cook on high for 2 -3 hours.  Check every so often and stir.

Transfer dip to a pie plate and garnish with blue cheese and celery pieces.

I used the left over dip on a salad the next day.

I grilled my lettuce on the grill with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Warmed up the dip and enjoyed a buffalo chicken salad.  It was delicious.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pork Chops, Potatoes and Gravy

I love a meal that is prepared and baked all at once.  Pork chops, gravy and potatoes are a sure way to bring your family running to the table when they hear the call for dinner.

Recipe: Pork Chops, Gravy and Potatoes

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours

4 thick boneless pork chops
1 egg
2 T. milk
1/2 cup of flour ( I use almond meal and brown rice flour, 1/4 cups of each--for gluten free option)
2 T. oil, for frying pork chops

1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
2 T. olive oil to saute

5 Yukon gold potatoes, sliced

1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of flour (you can use white or brown rice flour or potato starch--for gluten free option)
1 cup of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 pkg. of Lipton onion soup

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1. Heat oil in saucepan. Combine egg and milk, beat together. Combine flour, salt and pepper. Stir well. Take each pork chop and dip in milk bowl, then dip on both sides in the flour bowl. Add pork chop to hot oil and cook until golden brown on each side. Remove to a dutch oven style baking dish.
2. Slice potatoes 1/4 inch thick and set aside.

3. In a medium pan, melt butter. Stir in flour. Add milk and cream. Once sauce is thick, stir in onion soup mix. Remove from heat.

4. To saute onions and mushrooms, add 2 T. oil to pan and saute together until onions are soft.

5. You will layer your dutch oven like this: pork chops, sauteed onions and mushrooms, onion gravy and top with the sliced potatoes.

6. Cover and bake for 1.5 hours.

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie with Peanut Butter Sauce

I have told you before how awesome I think cast iron pans are.  

My love and adoration for them has been bumped up another notch after making this one dessert.

Two weeks ago my husband and his buddies read a book about being wheat free.  They have decided  they would like to cut wheat out of their diets.

Honestly, sometimes you have to just shake your head.  I say this with a ton of love for my hubby but I have been saying this for about 3 years.  This is when I first discovered I had a sensitivity to wheat and some other foods myself and started limiting my intake.  

For the most part I am wheat free and so we have lots of wheat free stuff in our house to eat.  I cook a lot of vegetarian dishes, I make all of my own sauces (most of them without wheat), we eat meat in moderation and try to eat more fish than we used to.

I have kids and so we do have the healthy boxes of cereal (with wheat), I buy pretzels (with wheat) and on occasion I make bread, cookies, cakes and breakfast foods, (all with wheat).

We try to eat wheat in moderation.  With my husband, it is usually a case of being in a hurry and grabbing what is easiest to eat on the run.  Sandwiches, a bag of pretzels, a cookie here and there. The amount of wheat he ate started to add up and his diet was not balanced with fruit, veggies and proteins. He ate almost all carbs and pretty soon his body craved them all the time.

I will say this, just because you drag a horse to the watering hole does not mean it will take a drink.


I cannot make him eat a certain way just like he cannot make me eat a certain way.  It has to be a choice that you/they/us make. 

He  believes, after reading this book, that he has a wheat gut.  He exercises until he is blue in the face and still he has his Budda belly.

I have watched him struggle with portion control, running, going without and then giving up.

So you can imagine my surprise when out of the blue he made this announcement, another diet.

I want to be that supportive wife, but I cannot babysit my husbands diet.  He would have to make the decision and LIVE by it no matter what food we had in our house.  He had to fight his own temptations to say NO, walk away and make a better choice.

I cannot do that and our kids cannot do that for him.  

I will say this:  I am so proud of him.  He has committed to making a lifestyle change with his eating habits and he is succeeding.

I have admired Cory as he has tackled his eating habits and changed things slowly.  He made himself a success in changing the way that he was feeding his body. 

I know how hard it is making these choices from my own experience.  I was encouraged to go cold turkey.  He recognized that in order for him to accomplish his goal, he would have to give up some of the things he enjoyed having: cookies, cakes and breads.  I explained to him that this was not always the case.  He would have to change what he reached for but not give up completely.  I know this is not new "news" but, we do have many more grains and flours at our disposal than just wheat.  Many of these recipes are healthier for us.  

I went on a quest to find him healthy alternatives to some of the things he had chosen to give up.  In searching, I have found many low carb, vegan  and high protein snacks.  

Choice and change are possible but it does take work, motivation and a desire.  Cory was willing and he had all three.  I just made it easier for him to feel his success by preparing things he can eat, staying positive, applauding his journey and encouraging him every step of the way. 

I may not be able to control what he puts into his mouth, but I certainly am willing to be his cheerleader as he goes through this process.

I am going to share two recipes, one with pictures and the other without (we ate them too fast) that are wheat free and low carb.  You don't have to be on any type of diet to enjoy a yummy and healthy treat. 
I know that it is easier to reach for a bag of this or that, but with a little bit of time and a few ingredients on hand, you can make something that is tastier and healthier for you and your family.

Your friends and family will be amazed after they finish their serving and ask for seconds. They also may be surprised to learn what this delicious skillet cookie was made of as well.

Quite simply, this is a simple recipe in a simple cast iron skillet, with the best peanut butter sauce served over the top to add that gourmet touch.


Recipe:  Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie with Peanut Butter Sauce

1/2 cup of coconut oil (see note)
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup of real maple syrup
1 tablespoon of vanilla
pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
3 cups of almond meal 
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips ( I use bittersweet)

Preheat oven to 350.

NOTE:  Virgin coconut oil will taste like coconut, refined coconut oil will have little to no flavor of coconut.  I used the virgin coconut oil in this recipe.

In a blender, combine the first 5 ingredients and blend for 5-6 minutes.  The ingredients will pull together and make a caramel type sauce.  

I used a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  Add one cup of caramel to the pan.  Add baking soda, almond meal and dark chocolate.  Combine until well blended.  

Using your fingers, pat mix into pan.  Bake 12-14 minutes.  The cookie will be golden brown and puff up.  This is a good sign it is done.

Remove from oven and spread the remaining sauce over the cookie.  

Serve with a bunch of spoons and eat right out of the skillet or dish it up, either way it won't last long.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup of mashed ripe bananas
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup of almond meal
1/4 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all of the above ingredients in Kitchenaid or bowl.  Mix together.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough 1 inch apart on sheet.  They don't spread too much.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, they should be golden when done.

Let cool slightly on cookie sheet and remove to cookie rack to cool.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hamburger and Zucchini Patties

Summer's in Maryland are beautiful except for one thing.  BUGS.

They are everywhere and combined with the humidity it can become quite uncomfortable outside.

Our first summer we stayed inside for most of it.  This year I had to find a way to allow us to be outside.  I can handle the hot and even a bit of the humidity, but the bugs are a force to be reckoned with.

It is not uncommon for me to go and shoot a few images, be gone for about 5 minutes and come back inside with 10 mosquito bites.

This is the reason for one picture of our hamburgers with zucchini.  I wish I had taken more, but you only really need one to see how the zucchini mixed with the hamburger creates a juicy thick patty.

To help us with our summer and enjoying the great outside in our yard, I made us a haven.

It's small, but so quaint.  We have strung lights in a variety of sizes and colors around the tent.  I placed potted plants at the entrance and embellished the chairs with cushions and quilts.

It is our little retreat from the phone, our computers and sometimes, the kids.  LOL

Inside we can enjoy a glass of wine, discuss the events of the day, read our favorite magazine or just sit in silence.

I love the simplicity that a simple camping tent in our back yard provides us on busy days.

Recipe:  Hamburger and Zucchini Patties

1 pound of grass fed burger meat
1 medium size zucchini, shredded
1/4 cup of red onion, diced small
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
1/2 cup of uncooked oatmeal
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce

Set your BBQ to 350 and preheat.

Combine all of the above ingredients.

Shape into patties.

Cook until desired doneness.  I try to only flip my burgers once on each side.  This gives them great grill marks and keeps them from possibly falling apart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

169. Almond Pretzels with Almond Dipping Sauce

When Cory and I left Utah two years ago with our kids, pets and the few possessions we could put into our 30 foot travel trailer, I can only imagine the thoughts that went on in our families and neighbors minds.

It reminds me of a scene in Beauty and the Beast when the towns people are describing Belle's father, "oh, you know, crazy old Maurice". Only there were a few more of us than one Maurice and we were not crazy.

What were we?  We were unemployed, ready for an adventure and change but most of all I was longing for some time with my kids.  Our lives had become busy.  We had church activities on the weekend and through out the week, we had civic responsibilities, sports, dance, school, work…sounds familiar?  We had a life.  A very busy life.

We made a choice to let life take us where ever the wind blew.  Cory found work teaching on line and then, through some friends, he found work that allowed us to work and travel for one year before we settled down again.

Poppies down by the Naval Academy, right before you go over the bridge.

Why one year?  Kids.  We do a lot for our kids.   They had fulfilled the so called "mid-life crisis" that their parents were going through and we had promised them we would only stop our lives for one year

Our lives did not stop. 

We laughed late at night around camp fires while listening to the wild life creep and creak behind us and the stars shown ever so brightly above us.  We talked into the wee hours of the night all crammed on our rv size queen bed.  We ate meals together on red and white checkered table clothes in the most wooded, green and serene state parks in 12 states.  We discovered each others interest through visiting museums, historical sites, movies, malls, parks, university's, city centers, etc…

What we stopped was not our lives but the noise and chaos that we sometimes cannot escape.  I for one had a hard time saying no, I was booked beyond belief.  My year off taught me to value my time.  It allowed me to work and hone on the one thing I enjoyed filling my time with, and that was my family.

We came to this area on a contract with IRS and my husband ended up working for a local company.  

To say that Annapolis is our home almost causes me to tear up.  I had no idea that a place could so easily root itself into my heart.

A pair of windows on a home downtown.

While on the West coast I yearned for the opportunity to live on the East coast.  I was drawn to this area.  Even before we decided on which neighborhood, school district or county, when the map was open my finger automatically fell on Annapolis.  We stayed for two months in our trailer looking for the perfect fit for our family.

I have a daughter at AACC, a son at Broadneck and a soon to be kindergartner.  We love our home.

Annapolis, MD is an amazing place that wraps it's gentle swaying sails around your heart and takes you back in time.  When down at the city docks, I often will close my eyes, listen to the waves and feel the sea air on my face.  

Happiness.  Joy.  Home.

A boat that is always docked in the harbor.  I love this boat.  

While we were on our mini adventure, I was not able to bake very many things.  Our oven was not the greatest.  I missed cooking bread, pretzels, brownies, cakes and all sorts of doughy yumminess.

I am pretty sure I have made up for it while living here this last year and a half. 

I learned to make pretzels, and then I discovered that I could coat them with almond gooeyiness and take a simple pretzel recipe and add a gourmet touch, giving my family the most mouth watering experience; all with one pretzel.

You can also find a step by step tutorial HERE of how I had my daughter help me make the plain pretzels a few months ago.  They are really easy for your kids to make.

Recipe:  Almond Pretzels and Almond Sauce

makes 12 pretzels 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Dough to rest: 30 minutes
Bake: 8-10 minutes

2 cups of warm water
1 Tablespoon of yeast
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
5 cups of flour

1 cup of warm water (for the water bath before baking)
1/4 of baking soda


1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoon of water
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1/4 cup of ground almonds or almond meal
a few drops of almond flavoring
chopped nuts for topping

To make the dough:

Add yeast and sugar to warm water. Let rise about 4 minutes.

In Kitchenaid, add flour and salt.  When yeast has activated, add to the flour.

Mix until combined and then knead for 6 minutes. Turn your oven to 500 degrees.

Let dough rise for 30 minutes.  When a few minutes are left on the rise time, prepare your warm water and baking soda mixture.

Have two cookie sheets ready to go.  Dump your dough onto your table and cut into 12 sections.  I usually cut the dough in half, then those halves are split in half again. From the four quarters on the table you should be able to get three smaller sections which will total 12 small mounds of dough.

Spray your table with Pam and start rolling your dough into long "snakes, about 20 inches.  Dip each strand in the warm water/baking soda mixture and then shape your pretzel on the cookie sheet.

Have your oven trays so that one is in the middle and one below that.  Add your sheets together.  Let them cook for 4 minutes and then switch the trays.  If you want your pretzels to be darker then just add an extra minute or two.  Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

You can serve your pretzels two ways:  Add butter and Kosher salt or add the almond glaze and serve with the sauce.  Both ways are amazing!  To add butter, when you transfer them to the cookie sheet coat each pretzel with melted butter and immediately sprinkle with salt.

To make the almond glaze and sauce:

Add all of the ingredients above into a small pan.  Warm the sauce on the stove until the brown sugar is melted and the mixture is well combined.  At the end of the cooking time for the pretzels, remove the trays.  Using a pastry brush, brush the pretzels with the almond glaze.  Return to the oven and cook for 3 minutes.  The glaze should be bubbly.  Remove and transfer to a rack. 

I love serving these pretzels with an extra side of glaze, so don't fret if you have some left over.  If you need more just follow the directions and make a second batch.

NOTE:  You can add chopped almonds also, but be careful because the will burn easily if the oven shelf is too close to the heat.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Patty Melt Sandwiches

Grilled onions, cheese, hamburger and rye bread.

Quite simply one of the best sandwiches.  The flavors are perfect together in my opinion.

Now don't get me wrong, I did say ONE of the best sandwiches.  I have many favorites but this is one that I have not had in a long time…like many, many years…a long time.

Growing up in the restaurant business this was a staple on our menu.  You don't see it very often now a days.  I wanted to introduce my family to something that was part of my school days as a teenager.

This and fresh cut french fries…OH boy those were the days of eating endless amounts of fried foods and greasy burgers.  LOL

I don't do that anymore and my kids don't regularly eat this way either, but every once in a while I am okay with it.

I love this recipe because it's a great use of simple ingredients.  I did not flavor the meat other than salt and pepper.  I wanted the onion, cheese and rye bread to be the star of the night.

I used two different types of cheese on my version to add a gourmet flair to the sandwich.  It looks amazing in the presentation and the combination of cheese's left you thinking about the sandwich well past dinner time.

ENJOY an old classic my friends, I know I did.

Recipe:  Patty Melt Sandwich

1.25 pounds of hamburger, enough for 5-6 patties depending on how thick you make them
2 whole onions, sliced
sliced cheese, I used provolone and cheddar
loaf of rye bread, two slices needed per sandwich
olive oil, for sautéing the onions

Combine your meat, salt and pepper.  Form into patties and set aside.

In a medium size saute pan, add olive oil and sliced onions.  Cook the onions until they are brown and reduced in size.  One onion only makes about 3/4 of a cup and this is not enough to do all of the sandwiches.  It will look like a lot of onion, but trust me, you do not want to skimp on the onion.

Set onions to the side.  Prepare cheese, sliced into thin sheets.

In a frying pan, add your bread that has been buttered, lay a piece of cheese on each side.  Add onions and then the meat patty.

Grill toast and combine the two slices of bread to form a sandwich.

Presto magic, you have a patty melt.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Messy Corn on the Cob

Last summer I went to DC to meet my cousin for dinner and we ate at Founding Farmers restaurant in Georgetown.  

I loved the concept of the restaurant.  They source their food from local farms in the area.  

Our food was memorable to say the least.  

I have wanted to try this style of corn for a very long time.  Some refer to it as Mexican Style Corn. 

I am just going to admit this now, when I eat something really good I tend to make noises that cause my family to turn their heads.  This was one of those occasions.  I could not help myself, the flavors were fantastic.  I think I said, " mmmmm, this is so good" about a 100 times and then ordered two more.  

I actually dreamed about that corn.  TRUE STORY!

I woke up and ran to the store to buy some more corn on the cob.

When I returned home I wanted to do my own twist on this corn on the cob.  I have recently fallen in love with smoked paprika.  The light went off in my head and this is how my corn became a monthly staple in our home.

Quite honestly I would eat this weekly if my family would allow it.  The best part is the mayonnaise and paprika leave a great mess on your face.  It's hilarious to watch others eat the corn.   We always warn our guest that it will require extra napkins.

This is just another example of how you can take something as simple as corn on the cob and "JAZZ that puppy up" into a gourmet side dish.  

Recipe:  Messy Corn on the Cob

ears of corn, I usually do at least one per person then add 4 more
grated parmesan cheese
green onions, finely sliced
Smoky Paprika Spice Mix (recipe below)

To prepare corn:  

In a large pot, bring your water to a rapid boil.  Add corn for 3 minutes to blanch it.  

On your grill, let the corn get nice and grilled, usually takes 8 -10 minutes.  This offers great flavor to the corn kernels.

When corn is done, remove to a plate.

This is the messy part, slather mayonnaise onto each piece of corn, sprinkle with the smoky paprika spice mix, add your parm cheese and then add a few slices of green onion.

Serve with lots of napkins and corn picks, if you have them.  Your friends will thank you later.

Recipe: Smoky Paprika Spice Mix

1 tablespoon of Smoked  Paprika
1 teaspoon of each of these spices: garlic powder, onion powder and salt
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/4 teaspoon of each:  chili powder and pepper

To add spice:  add red cayenne pepper (just be careful and warn people first)

Combine together and store in sealed jar or container.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

166. Grilled Peach Caprese Salad

I have fond memories of peaches.  As a child, it was one of my favorite fruits to have each summer.  When I became an adult and got married, it was one of my favorite fruits to can.  I  remember my early days of canning and having quart after quart of peaches to do each day for a week solid.

By the end of the week I really had to question if it was worth it.  My hands were raw, my house was hot from boiling water, and my life stopped until I could get them all "up" for the months to come.

It was during these months that I was and will always be grateful that I canned those peaches.  The flavor, texture and sweetness are always a welcoming surprise to my mouth during the cold months of winter.  A little bit of summer in the months of December and January.

Grilling peaches is a new concept to me.  It seems lately that a lot of chefs, mixologist and bloggers are rediscovering this technique.  Like anyone else, I wanted to give it a try.

Yesterday I grilled up 5 peaches and used them in a variety of ways.  This peach Caprese salad was my first recipe to play with.

It's simple.  I like that.

It's beautiful.  My guest love that.

It's a quick entree, side dish or snack.  My family definitely LOVES that.

I found this store in town, named Cleo's fine oils and vinegars.   I have been wanting to visit it for some time and I was finally able to get over there last week.  Can I just say, it is possible to want to drink basalmic vinegar.  I didn't believe the TV reporter when they told me this.  I thought it would be too twangy, sour and bitter.  I was wrong!  When you get a quality balsamic vinegar and when it's flavored it is like comparing artificial syrup to the real thing.

The vinegars were thick, sweet, flavored and in my opinion, perfect.  I chose two.  The peach balsamic vinegar and the bordeaux cherry….was I in for a real treat!

Just note that if you use a regular flavored balsamic on this salad, it will change the dynamics of the salad.  It won't be bad, it is just that the peach vinegar adds so much to the flavor of the tomato, cheese, basil and grilled peaches.

Enjoy this simple, yet beautifully displayed salad that will have your guest wanting more.

Recipe:  Grilled Peach Caprese Salad

Per salad instructions.
1 grilled peach, peeled and grilled until marks appear on the peaches
3-4 slices of mozzarella cheese
3-4 slices of tomato
3-5 leaves of fresh basil
Peach Balsamic Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

To grill my peaches, I peeled them first.  Added some olive oil to coat each one.  Set my grill to 350 and added them to the grates.  I let them cook for 5-7 minutes on each side.  This was enough time for them to get warm and to see the grill marks.

Remove them from the heat and slice them into even slices.

Slice your tomatoes and cheese.

Layer your salad on small plates.  Drizzle your oil and vinegar over the top of each salad and season with salt and pepper. 

Sprinkle the small leaves around the plate.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vegetable Tian

I spend a few minutes each day chatting with myself, do you?  My conversations range from things I should have said to questions I would be asked if I were on a radio station.  All quite silly things to be truthful.

With these said conversations I solve many world problems, issues with family and convince myself that I pretty much have all of the answers.  If only someone would ask.  Of course I am joking, I don't have all the answers but sometimes it's fun to pretend that we do.  

On this day, a week ago, I was playing the what if game.  What if I were on a radio show and someone asked me,  "who would you say was your greatest influence in the kitchen?"

I was so quick and on my feet for this pretend interview that I immediately said, "why, my grandmother of course".

This is when the conversation became really fun and active in my head.  I actually had to disagree with myself and somehow I was okay with that.

I stopped the interview, and proceeded to have a quick moment of reflection.  This is what I learned about my influences for my passion of cooking and preparing food.

1.  My grandmother did influence me in the kitchen on many levels, but she was not the ONE influence.  The thing I learned and remember most often, is that when you are making a recipe always put everything away as you use it.  Then when your cookies are made, there is not a huge mess to clean up (hubby please take note).  I realized that my grandmother made the same things for dinners.  She rarely altered the food fare on the table.  Her influence for me was the desire to be in the kitchen and work with my hands.  She made fabulous desserts.

2.  My mother worked and owned a restaurant.  I was influenced by being in the kitchens and smelling the food that was being prepared.  My Mom worked really hard so that her three girls could have the things they needed and wanted.  She taught me to work hard and this has influenced my passion for cooking and writing.  Along the way my Mom has continued to try and learn new recipes, I love this desire to evolve and create.  She has continued to learn new things.

3.  I love to travel.  When we have traveled in the past we visit the museums, the parks, the rides, the tours and the tourist spots of most places we visit.  I have decided that most cities and towns have pretty much the same functions with a few unique places to visit.  The key is finding what makes each of those places unique and different.  I find that this is fondly found in the foods that are served around town.  Food tells a story of the region or location just as much as the people or museums do.  Traveling has had a huge influence on the way that I cook and find inspiration. I often return home from a trip and try to find recipes or develop recipes that remind me of where I had just been.  

4.  My family, health and desire to eat right probably have the greatest influence over how I cook and what I make.  Without my kids I would not have a reason to make big meals, prepare for birthdays,  save recipes, share or teach with them my love for making bread and this list could go on an on.

Getting back to the question, "who would you say was your greatest influence in the kitchen?" I would have to say my family, my love for traveling and my willingness to never stop learning.

It's these influences that influenced this dish.  I did not develop this dish, it has been around for years.  I just had the ingredients on hand, new that my family would love it, saw it on several other blogs, immediately thought of my time spent in France and it was my ever increasing desire to do something new and different that influenced this dish to be made last week.  As my life changes I am sure my influences will too.  I look forward to the adventure ahead.  

This is a simple way to use your veggies from the garden to create a dish with a gourmet flair and appearance.  Using sprigs of fresh herbs adds that special little touch to make your family and friends ooh and ah. 


8-3-2012 This recipe was shared on Amee's Savory Dish: Fit and Fabulous Friday.  Go check out the other amazing and healthy recipes.

Recipe:  Vegetable Tian

yellow squash
1 red onion
minced garlic
fresh herbs, I used thyme from my garden
1/2 cup of cheese, I used Edam.  Cheddar, Jack, Parmesan all can be used too.

Why are there not any ingredient amounts?  Simply because this dish can be made in a 9X13 or as an individual serving.  You decide how big or how much you want to make and that will determine what you will need to have on hand.

For me, I did one of each (except for the tomato, I had two).  This was prepared in a 7X10 tian (shallow ceramic baking dish).

Preheat your oven to 375. 

Cut your veggies.  I used a mandolin and this is how I was able to achieve the consistency in width for each veggie.

Saute your chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil.

In the bottom of your baking dish, spread the onion/garlic mixture.  Start stacking your veggies and then laying them in rows in your dish.  You can pack them tight if you want, they do reduce and shrink a bit when cooked.

Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.  I added 4 sprigs of thyme.  Cover with foil and bake until done.  Mine took 40 minutes to cook.  It was all based on the potatoes (they took the longest to cook).  When they were done, I removed the foil and added some cheese.

Without cheese.

With cheese.


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