Monday, April 30, 2007
White Pizza Dip
Note: The recipe calls for a package of Lipton soup mix, but it made the final product a little too salty for my taste. Next time I make it, I'll just substitute my own favorite spices. Maybe Italian herb seasoning. Or Fresh oregano and basil. Maybe a pinch of red pepper flakes for some kick.
1 envelope Lipton Recipe Secrets Savory Herb with Garlic Soup Mix
1 large container (16 ounces) sour cream
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup (1 ounce) chopped pepperoni (optional) (You could also add, as I did, 1/4-1/2 cup of cooked Italian sausage)
1 loaf Italian or French bread, sliced, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In medium bowl, combine soup mix, sour cream, ricotta cheese, 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, and, if desired pepperoni (and/or sausage). Pour into shallow 1 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until heated through. Serve with bread slices. (I liked them toasted best.)
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The other night, with spinach on hand and inspired by the basic cream sauce from these delicious potatoes, I came up with my own version of creamed spinach. It was so good that I thought I would pass it on. (And write it down for myself so I'd remember what I'd done!)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup white wine
8 cups baby spinach
In a medium pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes.
In a measuring cup, whisk the flour and milk together. Pour into the onion mixture and stir constantly until thick, about 2 minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese and wine and heat for one minute. Stir in the spinach and continue stirring until mixture is well-combined and spinach is just wilted, about three minutes. Add a grating of fresh nutmeg (always good with spinach) and salt and pepper to taste.
It's ready to eat now, but if you really want to make it spectacular, pour spinach into a baking or gratin dish and top with 1/2 cup bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes or until bread crumbs are golden.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
We do pretty well around our house. Some of our efforts are more involved--organic gardening, recycling, composting--all things that you might consider too. I'll blog about them in the weeks to come.
There are some simple things I've vowed to pay more attention to though.
- Making sure lights are turned off when we're not in the room. I've always thought we're pretty good about this. When I pay attention though, we're really not. We've resolved to do a much better job. I'm even going to look into these to help save energy costs from our electronics and appliances.
- Cut down on paper towel use. I already use the ubiquitous "tea towel" as my napkin during most dinners. I'm now going to go out and buy some rags that we can use to clean counters and windows rather than going through roll after roll of paper towels. However, I'm not joining the Sheryl Crow "one sheet of toilet paper" bandwagon.
- Look for eco-friendly cleaners. We already use the dis soap put out by Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day. Added bonus is that it smells great. Now I'm going to look for other options for the laundry and to replace the Clorox Clean-Up we use on our countertops. Maybe Shaklee has something. (Speaking of laundry, I'm also thinking about drying our sheets on clotheslines outdoors. Since we feed the birds, we'll have to come up with a strategic place for the line...)
- Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. I've heard there's controversy over how environmentally friednly these bulbs actually are (apparently they include mercury which can be a problem when you discard them), but they are supposed to provide great light and save significant amounts of energy. I'm doing a test case on several of our lamps in the next couple of days.
- Use a canvas bag at the grocery store. If asked, I'll choose a paper bag over a plastic one, but I might as well take a canvas bag that I can reuse over and over again.
- Cut down on junk mail. While I already shred and recycle our junk mail, I'm going to check out Greendimes. They say they can cut down on your junk mail by 75-90%. Worth a try...
If all of you reading this blog would agree to just ONE of these things, we'd already be taking steps to make the world a better place...and guarantee that it will be here for future generations. Will you join me?
Monday, April 23, 2007
Ranch-Style Deviled Eggs
Makes 12 servings
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup cottage cheese
3 tablespoons prepared Ranch dressing
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove yolks, reserving four yolks. (Discard others or give your dogs a treat!)
In a food processor, combine cottage cheese, dressing, mustard and four yolks and process until smooth. Spoon filling into egg whites and chill for at least one hour before serving.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Pappardelle with Lemon, Baby Artichokes and Asparagus
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine
12 ounces uncooked pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta)
2 1/4 cups cold water, divided
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
8 baby artichokes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into (1-inch) pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set pasta aside; keep warm.
Combine 2 cups water and juice in a medium bowl. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut off stem to within 1/4-inch from the base; peel stem. Remove bottom leaves and tough outer leaves, leaving tender heart and bottom; trim about 1 inch from top of artichoke. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise. Place artichoke halves in lemon water.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain artichokes well; pat dry. Add artichokes to pan. Cover and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally; uncover. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 2 minutes or until artichokes are golden, stirring frequently. Place artichokes in a large bowl.
Place pan over medium heat; add remaining 1/4 cup water and asparagus to pan. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add asparagus, parsley, and rind to artichokes; toss well. Add pasta, reserved cooking liquid, the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, thyme, salt, and pepper to artichoke mixture; toss well.
Place 2 cups pasta mixture into each of 6 shallow bowls; top each serving with about 3 tablespoons cheese.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
1 part gin
1 part orange juice
2 parts cranberry juice
Pour in order listed over ice in a collins glass. Stir if desired.
1 part gin
1 part grapefruit juice
1 part cranberry juice
Splash of lime juice
Splash of simple syrup
Shake ingredients in ice-filled cocktail shaker and pour into chilled cocktail glass.
Monday, April 16, 2007
French-Style Deviled Eggs
8 large eggs
1/3 cup minced reduced-fat ham (Iused some diced prosciutto that I had in the freezer. You can buy it at warehouse stores, if you can believe it.)
1 tablespoon minced green onions
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
Place eggs in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 1 inch above eggs; bring just to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 12 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold running water until cool.
Peel eggs; slice in half lengthwise. Remove yolks; discard 4 yolks. Place remaining 4 yolks in a medium bowl. Add ham and next 7 ingredients (through pepper); stir until combined.
Spoon about 1 teaspoon yolk mixture into each egg white half. Top each half with 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs.
Garnish with fresh thyme leaves, if desired.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 1/3 cups cold club soda
2 cups rice flour
In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until golden brown (about four minutes), stirring and tossing occasionally. Set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, slowly whisk the club soda into the rice flour, adding the club soda gradually until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter. Whisk in the sesame seeds.
Fill a medium stock pot 1/3 full with canola oil and heat it to 35o degrees. Add seafood to batter and fry in batches until cooked through and golden brown. Remove to paper towel-lined sheet pan to drain. Sprinkle with salt while still hot and serve warm with your favorite sauces. (I particularly loved it with sweet chili sauce!)
Andrea suggested a wonderfully lightly fruity and crisp Chablis. It was wonderful. The simple "cleanness" of the dish calls out for a similarly light and crisp wine. An albarino from Spain. A Pinot Grigio from Italy. A light sparkling wine. Or even a dry rosé. Cheers!
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
They sat on the counter for a couple of days. Until tonight. Used them to make this twist on a wonderful, traditional cocktail.
Blood Orange Cosmopolitan
1 ½ oz. Absolut Citron (or, even better, Absolut Mandarin)
½ oz. Cointreau
¼ oz. lime juice (one lime or so)
¼ oz. Fresh Blood Orange Juice (juice from one half of a blood orange)
Splash of Cranberry Juice
Splash of simple syrup
Shake well with ice and serve in a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a slice of orange.
Monday, April 09, 2007
One was an easy "dump" casserole of frozen potatoes, sour cream and cheese. The other was slightly more complicated. Sliced potatoes and onions. And a homemade cream sauce.
They were both fantastic, but the more complicated recipe won with most of us. (The ham really adds a nice rich sweetness.) I've posted it below. Stay tuned though. I'll be posting the runner up next week.
Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 12 servings.
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion (about 5 1/2 ounces), thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups), divided
6 ounces diced ham (about 1 1/4 cups)
3 pounds peeled baking potatoes, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat olive oil and melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Combine milk, salt, pepper, and flour, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan. Bring to a simmer; cook until slightly thick (about 2 minutes), stirring frequently. Add 4 ounces cheese and ham, stirring until cheese melts.
Stir in potatoes. Place the potato mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle remaining two ounces cheese over top of casserole and bake an additional 30 minutes or until lightly browned and potatoes are tender. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
But fish is different, right? It conjures up visions of bare-chested men dragging nets through the pristine waters of the sea. There are millions, if not billions, of fish in the sea, so humans can't possibly have a negative impact.
I was peripherally aware of the negative impact of fishing a couple years ago when I noticed a note at my local Whole Foods explaining why they wouldn't sell sea bass. Things were further brought home when I saw Sharkwater at the AFI DALLAS International Film Festival. It won the HDNet Award and graphically shows what's happening to the oceans thanks to the irresponsible overfishing of shark and other fish. Certainly can make one sit up and take notice.
Made ME take notice of Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. They publish guides for every region of the United States telling you what seafoods to buy and what to avoid. For example, shrimp. Those from the United States, both farmed or wild-caught are ok. But stay away from those that are imported. If you want cod, buy stuff from Alaska and not from the Atlantic. And we still need to avoid sea bass altogether.
Check out their website. Print out a guide and take it with you when you're grocery shopping. Using it to help you make your decisions just might be a small, but important contribution to keeping our oceans vital and productive.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Now a day off for me is literal. A day off from everything. No schedules, no to-do lists, and no pressure. You get up when you want to. And then take things as they come. There is no requirement to do a dang thing.
If you want to take a nap, do it. But don't feel obligated.
If you want to walk around the back yard, do it. But don't feel obligated.
If you want to go see a movie, do it. But...you get the idea.
Personally, I like to spend a day with no TV, no computer, nothing. Even watching TV implies a schedule and requirements. You have to wait until a commercial to go to the bathroom or get something from the kitchen. That's confining. Just chill out. If you need to, refresh yourself on "the power of now."
If you feel guilty looking around the things you "need" to do, get over it. If you can't, get a room. Literally. Check into a local hotel. There's NOTHING to do there but relax.
Everything you need to do will still be there the day after your day off. And you'll be reenergized and much more prepared to handle it all.
Who's going to join me?
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Baked Halibut with Orzo, Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes
Adapted from a reader's recipe in Bon Appetit
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets
1 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 cups (packed) baby spinach
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice in bowl; season dressing with salt and garlic pepper. Set aside.
Place halibut on rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with some of dressing. Bake until just opaque in center, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite; drain.
Add 2 tablespoons oil, garlic and onion to same saucepan; sauté over medium heat 2-3 minutes. Add drained pasta, spinach, and tomatoes; stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 1 minute (spinach will wilt). Divide pasta between 2 plates. Top with halibut and remaining dressing.
Monday, April 02, 2007
I will be spending lots of time over the next several months to take this blog to a new level. Different categories to sort entries. More images and updated design. Probably an ad link or two.
But the content will remain the same. Great ways to make your life more enjoyable, healthier, more beautiful. Things to look forward to include:
- More recipes that are delicious and healthy.
- Ways to make your home and garden more environmentally friendly.
- New wines and spirits I discovered at Savor Dallas.
- Sample recipes and reviews from LOTS of new cookbooks I've been picking up.
- Suggestions on ways to relax and make life more fun.
- Party ideas and family entertaining suggestions.
- Spring cleaning and organization tips.
- More and more on wine: wine list suggestions, educational bits and food/wine pairings.
- And of course, some delicious cocktails perfect for taking out on the patio or deck with friends and family.
Thanks to all of you who are regular readers. (Site traffic indicates I have a couple of stalkers out there!) I hope this new phase of the blog will include many more readers who can join us in our conversation. PLEASE forward the link on to as many of your friends, colleagues and family members as you can. More of us should be living the beautiful life.
Stay tuned...onward and upward!