Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stir Frys and Fried Brown Rice Tips.....

The next time you make brown rice, make double and freeze.  Simply thaw and whip up Fried Vegetable Brown Rice.  This is healthy and so simple.  Add whatever vegetables you like or even add a small amount of leftover rotisserie chicken or any other leftover meat to make for a satisfying entree.   Remember too, that you can offer a stir fry side dish to accompany most any grilled or pan seared protein.
Stir frys do not need to be complicated.  You need seasonings such as garlic and ginger, protein if you like, can be tofu, tempeh, seafood, chicken or beef, and a simple sauce.  Personally, I fancy sweet and spicy.  Let us not forget many options!

Here are a couple things to keep in mind when preparing fried rice or stir fry:

1)  For fried rice, always use cold rice, this is why leftover is best.  Brown or white rice are equally suitable.
2)  Have all ingredients that are going into fried rice or a stir fry are prepped ahead and ready to go into the pan.
3)  Remember to use meats as a condiment rather than the focus of your stir fry, it will be much healthier and you will get plenty of the daily fiber requirement your body needs. 
4)  Be creative and use leftover meats and vegetables to reduce waste.
5)  Cook meats first, remove from pan, wipe with a paper towel and move on to vegetables.
6)  Cook the vegetables that will take the longest first, adding veggies down to the quickest cooking. Add the cooked meat back to the pan at the very end with sauce ingredients.
7)  Stir fry odds and ends of vegetables you have in your crisper to use them up! 
8)  Pan to use?  Of course you can use a wok, if you do not have one, no worries.  A large heavy skillet with good heat conduction is perfect!  You want the pan very hot before adding oil to begin cooking.

Here are the vegetables in order from longest cooking to shortest:
Napa cabbage
Snap peas
Pea pods
Green onions
Bean sprouts-just need to be warmed
Water chestnuts-just need to be warmed
Bamboo shoots-just need to be warmed

Pantry items to have on hand: 

Low sodium soy sauce
Toasted sesame oil
Chicken broth (better than bouillon)
Chili Garlic Sauce
Hoisin Sauce
Rice vinegar
Sesame seeds

The key to making stir frys, fried brown rice or noodles, is to have everything prepped and ready to go in the pan.  Depending on the number of ingredients you use, dinner can come together in a matter of minutes on the stove. 

So get ready to stir fry!  I will be sharing many quick stir fry recipes throughout summer.

Have a wonderful holiday!!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Green Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Well, it seems the dog days of summer have arrived....and we aren't even into June yet!  When it's this hot, my taste buds favor delicious, crisp salads.  Now, the salad isn't a fabulous salad unless there is a unique and fresh tasting salad dressing, right?  I've come up with a very nice dressing that uses fresh blueberries, what's not to love, right?  Paired with some nice sharp cheese and toasted walnuts...fantastic!  Serve this beautiful salad to guests, they will flip!

Green Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

12-15 oz. fresh mixed greens, gently washed and spun out (if you don’t have a salad spinner, dry with paper towels)
3-4 tablespoons crumbled feta or bleu cheese
3-4 tablespoons toasted walnuts, broken into dime size bits
(to toast, spread over cookie sheet & into a 300’ oven for 12 minutes)
½ cup or more fresh plump blueberries

For the dressing:

1 ¼ cup fresh blueberries or frozen thawed
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon granulated onion powder
¾ cup olive oil, first cold pressed is best

1) Assemble salad ingredients in a pretty salad bowl starting with the greens, top with goodies. If entertaining, assemble each salad on a plate and serve dressing on the side.

2) For the dressing, place all ingredients into a blender except the olive oil. Blend, while blender is going, slowly drizzle all of the olive oil into the blueberry mixture. Add a little more water if you would like a thinner consistency.  Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Whisk before using. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Volcano Cake.....

My official frosting "taste tester".....
Two thumbs up!!

Here it is!  A sheet cake bottom, several layers for the volcano, I had to add large marshmallows cut in half to give it more height.  The cake recipe I used was a  basic yellow cake that was simple and very delicious! I had to triple the recipe for this size cake.   I did an entire vanilla frosting "crumb" layer first.  I then assembled the volcano.  I used a shot glass in the very top to plop in the dry ice for "smoke."  Green icing for grass, blue icing for water, dinos, a palm tree I got from a card and party store.  The slate looking rocks would be Hershey's chocolate, broken into jagged pieces.  The hot flowing lava would be fruit roll ups cut into strips!

You can see a little bit of the "smoke".  You have to had hot water to the dry ice (very carefully) to create the affect.  I had one happy little 5 year old!

I had great fun doing this cake!

Don't be afraid to experiment!  If you ever have any questions on how to do something like this, email me!  I'd love to help!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Birthday Celebration!

Good morning. 

Growing up, the best part about our birthdays was the cake.  Mom always came up with something interesting, fun, and best of all, creative.  There were 5 kids in our family.  There were no extravagant pony rides, petting zoos, or road trips to the city.  We had delicious cake, ice cream and the company of our cousins.   What more does a kid need?

Mom and I have been on the phone for days tossing around ideas for Ryan's birthday cake.  She is so creative, I love her ideas!  Ryan loves dinosaurs.  She suggested a volcano cake (also to add dry ice for a smoke affect!) with palm trees.  I thought it would be cool to add blue water, maybe a small stream or lake.  This morning she suggested using large and small marshmallows for rocks and using pretzel rods for the palm tree trunk and green fruit roll ups for the leaves....  I thought it would be great to do all of this on a sheet cake for a base.  For the actual volcano, I thought crushed oreos pressed into chocolate frosting....ahhhh, delicious!  Wait, it's not about me.....

Anyway, this is so fun!  Are you now understanding why my Mom is such an inspiration?

Stay tuned, I will have pictures!

Have a great weekend!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Blueberry Streusel Muffins.....

What's not to love about fresh blueberry muffins with streusel no less?  These are very moist, delicious, and easy to make.  Use fresh or frozen blueberries.  Great for breakfast, brunch, or after school...come to think of it, great at anytime of the day!

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

For the muffins:
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fresh blueberries, or frozen blueberries, thawed

For the streusel:
¼ cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons softened butter

1) Use muffin cups to line muffin pans, coat with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350’.
2) In a small mixing bowl, combine all streusel ingredients well with your hands. Set aside.
3) In a large mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients, blend well with a whisk. Make a well in the center. Add wet ingredients and mix until just blended, do not over mix.
4) Scoop about a tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Top with about 5 blueberries, use them all. Evenly distribute the rest of the batter over the top of the blueberries.
5) Top with a good amount of streusel topping. Bake for 17 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Olive oil.....

I am a huge fan of first cold pressed olive oil.  I use it for just about everything, oven roasting, fresh salad dressings, and oven frying.  I also drizzle it over steamed vegetables instead of butter, I love the taste!   I found this interesting link from Trader Joe's.  Beautifully written and an easy read, it explains the different varieties from different regions, uses, shelf life, etc.  

Since I'm on this "substitution" kick, I also saw in the article a conversion chart to convert from butter to olive oil in baking.  This is a healthier alternative to butter and you use less of it so there is less fat.  I'm all over it!  Some ideas for sub-ing....popovers with rosemary, pumpkin bread, cheddar drop biscuits...  This substitution may change the texture slightly, but will make up for it with added rich flavor.

Time to get baking.   Have a great day!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Substitution.....

Any idea where a very large Libby's pumpkin supplier is located?   Ready for this?  Right here in Morton, Illinois.  Do you remember there being a shortage of canned pumpkin right around Thanksgiving 2009?  Heavy rains flooded the fields and made it impossible for heavy tractors and equipment to collect the pumpkins.  I wish I'd taken this a bit more seriously when I heard of the problem, I would have stocked up last fall!  Of course, we can't expect to see pumpkin again anytime soon.  We'll have to wait until fall harvest 2010.

I had completely forgotten about this while shopping over the past few months.  I am so used to going to the store and "poof," anything I want at anytime is available. 

Now I have a hankering for pumpkin squares.  What to do....

I do what I always do, I think of a good substitute.  You could do one of two things.  1)  puree a 15 oz. can of  sweet potatoes with the juices or 2) puree a 15 oz. can of carrots with the juices.  They're both an orange vegetable and they both would yield a moist result. 

So, instead of Pumpkin Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting, you have Spiced Carrot Cake Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting or Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I wonder how many new recipes were born because of a missing key ingredient?   Don't be afraid to experiment!  We all fail here or there when we experiment.  Isn't it great to come up with something new and delicious that you can call your own?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crispy Oven Fried Chicken.....

Everyone LOVES fried chicken!  This is the easiest way to make a very authentic tasting "fried" chicken.  It takes minutes to prepare and it will certainly become a family favorite!  Serve for Sunday supper or bring to potlucks!  This will be your "go to" chicken recipe. 

Easy Oven Fried Chicken

1 whole cut up chicken, or 2-3 lbs of chicken pieces of your choice with bone and skin
Kosher salt & pepper
Dried thyme
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
Olive oil
1) Preheat oven to 400’. Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with Reynolds non stick foil.

2) Rinse chicken and drain well. Season each piece generously with salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzle chicken pieces with one tablespoon of olive oil, toss to coat. Dredge each piece of chicken in flour and shake to remove excess flour. Place on foil lined sheet. Using a basting brush, baste each piece of chicken with drippings in pan after about 30 minutes of baking. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Buying Organic Meats, budgeting ideas.....

I watched Food, Inc. recently, click here to see the trailer.  What an eye opener! 

I put off watching it.  It is so important to be informed about what is going on in the world of  "corporate" food production.  It's not farming, so ridiculous!  Lately I've wondered how local grocery stores could sell Perdue boneless chicken breasts from $ .99 to $1.98/lb.  Watch the documentary, you will understand how.  It is more important than ever to buy our foods from actual FARMERS.  People who take pride in their animals and treat them humanely.  If an animal is standing in waste, fed unhealthy foods that they aren't meant to eat, and given crazy growth hormones to fatten them up unbelievably fast, the end product simply cannot be good for the human body.   Watch the documentary, you will understand what I'm talking about.

Think about this.  Try cutting meat out two to three times a week by making good, vegetarian type meals and you will have more in your budget for the better meats/poultry.  In fact, you will most likely SAVE money!Most of us eat entirely too much meat on a daily basis.  The recommended daily allowance varies depending on your age and size and is given in grams per serving.  Find out what your RDA is on this grams to ounces conversion calculator.

There are so many delicious things you can make that kids, yes, I said kids, will love.  Macaroni and cheese, whole wheat spaghetti with marinara sauce topped with a healthy shaving of parmigiano reggiano, meatless tamale pie , etc.  Also, make dishes where you are using only 3-4 oz. of meat/ serving.  For example, vegetable stir fry using meat as a condiment, pasta sauces with small amounts of chicken or ground meats.   Our bodies are not equipped to digest 8-16 oz portions!  I'm working on brown rice and cheese stuffed poblano peppers (chile rellenos.) what's not to love about that?

Let us all say "NO" to this out of hand corporate way in which we feed our people.  Less dollars in their pockets send a very telling message.  Let's use this information to make better choices for the environment and the health of our families.

We can do it!  I am going to do my best to share recipes that use smaller amounts of meat and poultry.  We're going to get healthier together!

I am so up for the challenge!

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

WTTW, Chicago Tonight Link!

Hey everyone! 

Click here to view the Chicago Tonight Blogger Segment that aired live on May 6th at 7:00 p.m.  It was great fun!    I truly enjoy the company of Dana Joy of Real Food Rehab and Natalie of Bake and Destroy.  The three of us are very different in our approach to food and and blogging.  I find what they do fascinating. From the moment we all meet in the green room, we are chatting it up.  Dana Joy and Natalie are so on top of food and drink trends, take a moment to check out their sites, you won't be disappointed!

I want to thank Phil Ponce, the charming host of Chicago Tonight and his entire crew, they're amazing!  I want to thank Amy Christenson, a producer of the show,  for the awesome opportunity!  And last but not least, Ruthie in make up.  What a treat to have someone do my make up!  She is fabulous.

Check it out!

Thank you, Angie

Happy Mother's Day!

Hello everyone-

Gee, what a week!  I'm wondering why the holiday for Mom's in only one day and not a week, or a month?  Or that we aren't celebrated once a month.....

Mom's don't get to be sick. 

The day before my husband went out of town for a business trip (for 4 days) I came down with a pretty unsavory virus.  I was in the midst of preparing for my Chicago Tonight appearance, writing about food and whatnot, had to take my 17 year old to the oral surgeon to get four wisdom teeth out (and of course, the aftermath of that!), had the actual TV appearance on Thursday, laundry, dishes, meals, baths, lunches, trash and recycling, the electrition, oh yeah, when is the tree guy coming?   The cherry on the cake was that the dog then vomited on the couch cushion and on the rug....really?  Nothing like cleaning up that stuff when the tummy isn't right to begin with!

I'm not complaining.  Just would like to actually take a little credit for being able to do all of these things when I'm sick.  Yes, my arm hurts from patting myself on the back.

Every Mom out there does this sort of thing on a daily basis, I'm not so special.  It's just what we do.  So, to all wondeful Mom's out there:



We all relate to eachother so well and it means so much to hear something nice from a fellow Mom.  I have so many special friends.  Friends who offer to help when they know I'm in need.  Thank you Mary, Sarah (she's a doctor and doesn't play one on TV), Deb and Cathriona,.....for having my back so often. 

God Bless all Moms!  Happy Mother's Day!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Simple Coconut Macaroons.....

Coconut Macaroons, French Macarons...know the difference?  A macaron is a delicate, beautiful sandwich confection made with beaten egg whites and filled with a decadent butter cream center or gnache.  I found it a bit confusing, when I googled French Macaroons I found recipes for Macarons.  It seems macaron and macaroon are used interchangably. 

This recipe is simple and delicious.  I think this cookie is very much like a rich piece of candy, yum!

1 14 oz. package sweetened flaked coconut
3 tablespoons flour
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 jar of maraschino cherries, halved
1 ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350’. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper-very important!
2) Empty bag of coconut into a large mixing bowl. Measure flour into coconut and toss to coat, break up any clumps of coconut.
3) Add vanilla and pour condensed milk over coconut mixture. Mix well.
4) Using a 1 ½ teaspoon cookie scoop, portion out onto parchment paper, being sure to level off when scooping to make for evenly sized cookies. There is no leavening in this cookie, so you can place them pretty close together on your sheet.
5) Top cookie with a halved maraschino cherry.
6) Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, slide entire sheet of cookies off of baking sheet onto cooling rack. Cool completely.
7) Pour chocolate chips in a microwaveable glass dish, shallow enough to dip the bottoms of your cookies into. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between, do not over heat chocolate, it will burn! You want to stir until smooth and all chips seem to be melted. It does not have to be hot.
8) Carefully dip each cookie bottom into the chocolate and place right back onto your parchment paper. Allow chocolate to set. To move the process along, you can place the entire sheet in your refrigerator. When they’re set you’re good! They can be packaged or put onto a tray without mess.


"UFOs", delicious and interesting "Unidentified Food Objects"......

 I did a poll a couple of months ago with this vegetable.   I asked if you thought it might be a turnip, horseradish, a parsnip, or jicama.  If you answered jicama, you were correct!  It is a delicious root vegetable primarily grown in Mexico.  It is best enjoyed raw in salads or on a vegetable platter.  It has a very crisp, light sweetness to it.   Below you will find an excellent grilled chicken entree salad with lots of "goodies" in it.  Make your own crispy, baked tortilla strips!  You will be so impressed with yourself!!

This UFO is yuca.  This is a very carbohydrate rich vegetable primarily grown in South America.  It is a bit of a process to prepare, however,  worth the effort.  I love it simply seasoned and prepared.  Oven roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.   Below you will find a couple of recipes centered around this understated UFO.  A delicious Tequila Lime Marinated Steak with a spicy and flavorful chimichurri sauce.  I round out the meal with a cool cucumber salad.  There is nothing like trying something new.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Grilled Chicken Salad with Jicama and Fresh Lime Cilantro Dressing.....

This salad is delicious and satisfying.  There are many different flavors that come together beautifully with the lime cilantro dressing.   Elegant enough to serve guests for dinner.  Make the dressing, tortilla strips, and prep the salad ahead of time.  Grill the corn and chicken just before serving.  You can use frozen white corn, thawed, if you wish.  It seems there is always a few ears of corn leftover after a typical summer dinner.  Use them in this salad, deeeeelish!
Grilled chicken salad with jicama and lime cilantro dressing

For the tortilla strips:
8 corn tortillas, cut into ¼” strips
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 pinches salt

1) Preheat oven to 350’. Foil line a cookie sheet, place strips in center and drizzle with canola oil, toss gently. Sprinkle with salt and toss to evenly coat. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning half way through.  Store in zip bag if you have any leftover.

For the salad:

1 head of romaine lettuce, thoroughly cleaned, drained, and cut into bite size pieces
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 14 oz. can black beans, rinsed and thoroughly drained
1 small jicama, peeled and diced
2-3 ears of fresh cooked corn, grilled and cut off the cob (directions below)
4 oz. montery jack cheese, shredded

1) Combine the vegetables in a large bowl. When you’re ready to serve, pour dressing over salad and toss gently to coat.  Top with shredded cheese, sliced cooked chicken and tortilla strips.  Makes four servings.

For the dressing:

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, thoroughly cleaned and chopped
1 cup fat free plain yogurt
½ cup fresh or bottled lime juice
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend well.  Store in refrigerator until you're ready to use.


2- 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 ears leftover corn on the cob, or 2 cups frozen white corn, thawed
2-4  teaspoons canola oil
Salt and pepper

1)  Put 1 teaspoon of canola oil in your hand and rub evenly over corn.  Season with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium high heat about 10 minutes, turning often, just to give it some color and grill flavor.  When cool enough to handle, hold corn straight up over cutting board and cut corn off cob with a serrated knife. 

2)   Coat chicken breasts with canola oil, salt, and pepper.  Cook over medium heat until juices run clear or internal temperature reaches 170'.  Slice into thin strips.

Tequila Lime Marinated Flank Steak with Chimichurri, my version....

This is an incredibly delicious combination of heat, sweet and savory.  The steak is juicy and is very much complimented by the spicy chimichurri sauce.  The cool cucumber simple salad is slightly sweet and the roasted yuca is a very nice understated starchy vegetable.  Enjoy with a salted rimmed margarita on the rocks with fresh lime....mmmmm good!


2 large cloves fresh garlic
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons tequila
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice or bottled
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ lb. flank steak

Place all ingredients in a blender; blend until smooth.  Place flank steak in a large zip bag, pour marinade over steak.  Marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  Discard marinade, preheat grill, cook over medium-high heat medium to medium rare.  For one inch thickness, cook 7-9 minutes per side.  Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.  Slice thinly across the grain or on a diagonal.  Serve with chimichurri.


3  tablespoons fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
½ medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
½ medium sweet red pepper, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil
2 large cloves fresh garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 jalepeno pepper, (or seranno pepper for more heat), seeds included
½ teaspoon cumin

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator, allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.  Serve a generous portion over the grilled flank steak. Delish!

Cool cucumber salad

2-3 cucumbers, washed and thinly sliced
2-3 thin slices of red onion
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Slice cucumbers and  onion into a serving bowl.  Mix the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl, stir often to dissolve salt and sugar.  Pour over cucumbers just before serving.

Oven Roasted Yuca.....

If you're entertaining, you can prepare the yuca all the way up to seasoning and roasting.  Refrigerate until you're ready to roast, then toss with oil and season.  Allow 8 oz. per serving when buying.

2 large yuca roots, about 2 ½ lbs.
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

1) Line a cookie sheet with non stick foil. Set aside.
2) Peel yuca, cut into 3” pieces and cover with water in a large bowl.
3) Bring a large pot of water to boil with 2 teaspoons of salt. Drain yuca from bowl and add to boiling water. Boil for 15 minutes, time from the moment all yuca is in the boiling water.   Drain and allow to cool until you can handle with your hands. Preheat oven to 400’.
4) Cut the pieces of yuca into quarters, exposing the very center of the vegetable.  Remove the fibrous center with a knife and discard. Place cooled yuca into a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over yuca, toss gently to coat. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper and toss gently to coat.  Spread yuca over cookie sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

WTTW, Chicago Tonight!

Hello everyone!

Please tune in to channel 11's Chicago Tonight this Thursday, the 6th at 7:00 p.m.  The ever popular host Phil Ponce, Dana Joy of Real Food Rehab, Natalie of Bake and Destroy, and I will be participating in a live discussion of what foods inspire us at this time of year.  It will be great fun!

Thank you!!!