Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu and a Blog Hiatus

Post 400 at last. I feel I’ve created a large enough body of work that there’s a little something here for most everyone. Like a hefty living cookbook that embodies my blood, sweat, tears and soul.

Slowly over the past few months I’ve been weaning myself out of the blogging system by pulling out of clubs and websites, leaving cooking groups and discontinuing participation in blog stuffs preparing for this day.

I admit I’m anxious and not just a little scared to fly away from this project. This has been my life for years. It’s habit now that absorbs huge amounts of my time and emotional energy. It’s also my comfort and my way to express myself through food, photographs and words. Which is why I can’t just let it go or leave completely.

So this isn’t goodbye, but I’m taking a long overdue break from food blogging for a while. Oh, I’ll likely still pop on now and then when a recipe or story gets me excited and I’ll still take on special assignments, but I’m ready to start and finish a few nonfood projects I haven’t had time to work on.

This break is not something I take on lightly. Emotionally I’m tied to this body of work, as it’s the first time every creative process was my own. If I got an assignment, it was because I picked it. My own thoughts, visions and subjective views are all here. I’m intensely private by nature, but tried hard to put as much me in here as possible. It wasn’t always exciting, but it was always me.

However, I have a novel that's partially finished I’ve been promising myself I would tackle head on. I’m looking forward to much more writing time. I’m also gearing up to start a new trade I trained for and that job starts Tuesday. There will be a learning curve but I’m pretty excited and I get to work for a woman I sincerely admire.

I admit another reason for this break is I miss cooking freely without having to test and write everything down. Just fly by the seat of my pants kind of cooking. Doesn’t that sound nice? Plus I’ve been wanting to cook and taste other food blogger recipes and I can’t do that while I’m posting myself. It’s going to be fun!

Will you guys ever forgive me? I'll still be here, but I’ve turned the comment moderation on, as I won’t be checking this everyday. If you want to get a hold of me, add me to Facebook or shoot me an email please. Facebook is great as I’m always connected.

I also want to say thank-you, for everything over the years. Yeah I know I’m not capable of really leaving, but still, thanks. This idea for a food blog started more than four years ago when a group of MySpace friends and I took pictures of our meals and posted the recipes for each other. I’m still super close to those ladies and our inclusive group has grown into something wonderfully huge. Plus we have big girl blogs now and switched out MySpace for Facebook, which has been fun.

And after all these food blogging years holy crow do I need to go on a diet! Trust me, you don’t want to be around for all that boring food.

So here is that last recipe for a while. I thought I’d end with something wonderfully indulgent and an old time classic because tomorrow it’s lettuce for me!

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Print Recipe
This decadent recipe was submitted by Behr to and I think it’s probably the best Chicken Cordon Bleu I’ve ever had. Behr writes that it’s "The standard Cordon Bleu swimming in a creamy wine sauce." Sure it is, if standard means I’ve died and gone to heaven.

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
6 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices ham
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Pound chicken breasts if they are too thick. Place a cheese and ham slice on each breast within 1/2 inch of the edges. Fold the edges of the chicken over the filling, and secure with toothpicks. Mix the flour and paprika in a small bowl, and coat the chicken pieces.

2. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the chicken until browned on all sides. Add the wine and bouillon. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

3. Remove the toothpicks, and transfer the breasts to a warm platter. Blend the cornstarch with the cream in a small bowl, and whisk slowly into the skillet. Cook, stirring until thickened, and pour over the chicken. Serve warm.

Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: 6

Recipe submitted by Behr to Picture by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hotel Hot Chocolate and the Princesses of Pandemonium

Once upon a time there were five little princesses. Well, perhaps there were really five precocious 4th grade art girls who decided to pretend to be high society princesses.

They spent time practicing their British accents and sticking their pinkie fingers out just precisely so from their colorful little cups of hot chocolate. The loudest and most dramatic of the girls thought they needed ages. She would be 26 years of age and the rest chose to be 2, 7, 9 and 16.

As practice for their future years as members of the public these five princesses took turns talking in extra polite voices while sipping delicately from their cups, but soon enough pandemonium would come.

When girls aged 2, 7, 9 and 16 decided they wished to be heard above girl aged 26’s growing chatter, their calm politeness turn to shrieks of high society mockery.

Or perhaps it was all those refills of hot chocolate or the generous marshmallow to hot chocolate ratio. For it didn’t take long for girls aged 26, 9, and 7 to follow girl aged 2 into diving face first into their popcorn. Giggles and growls were heard among bites, chews and gulps.

Except for one. Girl aged 16 must have been more resistant to the effects of sweet warm hot chocolate than girls aged 2, 7, 9 and 26. For she stuck her pinky out as far as it would go, held her head high and delicately ate her snack. This of course made the other girls laugh and screech louder. For they decided behaving like animals was more amusing than life as high society princesses.

Maybe it would be best to limit real high society princesses to water and gruel. For common princesses are fortunate. When they wiggle and worm in their seats they get to jump up and run out the door to play in the dirt, trees and hills of kind neighbors who share their yard with excitable children.

Common high society imaginary animal princesses are very lucky indeed.

The Maidstone Arms’ Hot Chocolate
Print Recipe
Years ago, my friend Julie and mother of Princess aged 16 clipped this recipe out of "The Oregonian" newspaper. Julie remembers reading that this hot chocolate is served at a nice hotel, and from the title it might be The Maidstone in East Hampton. If you have details please let us know.

8 ounces of high-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light or dark corn syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
6 to 8 cups milk (or half & half or, what the heck, whipping cream)

Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine water, corn syrup and sugar. Bring just to a boil and pour immediately over chocolate. Whisk until chocolate is melted and completely integrated, then whisk in butter. (At this point, the mixture can be refrigerated for up to a month.)

Place chocolate mixture and milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until very hot but not boiling. If desired, top with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve immediately.

For individual serving, stir 2 heaping tablespoons of the chocolate base into 1 cup milk, or to taste.

Julie's Notes:
I usually use Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips and grind them up in the food processor so they melt easily.

I use more like 1 heaping tablespoon for an individual serving and even less for Adelia.

Laura's Notes:
For the kiddos, I like to use low-fat milk, 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, a 1.55 ounce Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar and a tablespoon of cocoa powder. I grind the chocolate and cocoa powder in a food processor because I'm lazy.

Story and picture Copyright Laura Flowers 2011. The Maidstone Arms’ Hot Chocolate might be from the Maidstone Hotel.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Better For You Pumpkin Orange Quick Bread

I tried making this bread with whole-wheat flour but it came out gummy so I don’t recommend trying it. Here the sugar is reduced by a whopping 1 1/3 cups and oil by 3/4 cup from the original recipe.

You’ll find this bread is not as richly dense, but it’s so much better for you.
Print Recipe

1 cup honey
1 ripe banana, mashed well
1/2 cup juice sweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Zest from 2 oranges

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree or 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups all-purpose flour
Butter and flour for loaf pans

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour two loaf pans. Tap off excess flour from pans.

2. In a large bowl, beat together honey, banana, applesauce, oil, orange zest, vanilla extract and eggs. Beat in pumpkin, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice and nutmeg. Mix in baking powder, baking soda and flour until combined.

3. Divide the batter equally between the two pans. Smooth the surface slightly and tap pans on the counter to release air bubbles.

4. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Glass and thick ceramic pans may take up to 65 minutes.

5. Cool loaves for exactly 10 minutes in pans before removing. Finish cooling on cooling rack.

Makes 2 loaves. 24 servings.

Nutrition Facts 24 Servings Amount Per Serving Calories 146.6 Total Fat 3.4 g Saturated Fat 2.0 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g Monounsaturated Fat 0.4 g Cholesterol 30.8 mg Sodium 183.7 mg Potassium 106.0 mg Total Carbohydrate 27.2 g Dietary Fiber 1.3 g Sugars 12.9 g

Copyright Laura Flowers 2011.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Creamed Peas and Baby Potatoes

I first tasted this side dish at my Dad’s table. He harvested the potatoes and peas from the garden that morning for this simple farmers dish and it was so good I ate all the leftovers.

Now it's one of my most favorite side dishes, even if I don’t grow my own potatoes and peas.

Creamed Peas and Baby Potatoes
If you use fresh peas you’ll have to boil them for several minutes until tender. Print Recipe.

1 pound baby potatoes
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
Salt & pepper, to taste

1. Gently boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 15 to 25 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and peas to the sauce and bring to simmer. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Recipe adapted from source unknown. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Garlic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Yesterday morning I scored a ginormous pumpkin. Boxes of pumpkins sat in front of the local grocery with big fat FREE signs.

Of course I grabbed the biggest monstrosity available and lugged it home for seeds. These garlic roasted ones are so simple and tasty my family gobbles them up before they’re cool.

So why do I feel a sudden urge to go dumpster diving?

Garlic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Every year Clara begs me to make these same toasted pumpkin seeds. Print Recipe.

Fresh pumpkin seeds
Bowl of cold heavily salted water
Cooking spray
Popcorn or any fine salt
Garlic powder

1. Place pumpkin seeds in the salted water bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

3. Strain and rinse pumpkin seeds. Place wet seeds on baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray. Season well with salt and garlic powder. Toss to coat.

4. Bake until dry and toasted, stirring every 10 minutes at first and every 5 minutes near the end. Cool and store in an airtight container.

By Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shortcut Butternut Squash Soup

It’s over. It’s actually over. October come back I miss you! I don’t want to take down all my Halloween decorations yet.

Sigh… Well at least I have yummy soup.

Shortcut Butternut Squash Soup

Can’t find canned butternut squash? This soup works equally well with a can of 100% pumpkin puree. Print Version.

14-ounce can chicken or veggie broth
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
15-ounce can Butternut Squash (Found at Whole Foods type stores)
2 cups half & half

1. In a large pot add broth, onion, carrots, butter, baking soda, salt, cinnamon & pepper. Bring to a high simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are soft. About 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Puree the soup in a blender. Pour it back in the pot. Add squash and half & half. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes while whisking occasionally. Season with a little salt if needed.

3. Spoon into bowls. Drizzle with a little half & half if desired.

Serves 6.

Recipe adapted from the “Farmer’s Market Organic Butternut Squash” label. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Last Chance Snack Mix

I'm sorry, but I need to share my pain for a minute. Near Halloween I get a certain little song stuck in my brain for days and days on end and I think it might be making me crazy. It starts softly around the 15th of October until it's blaring in my head by today.

For you, I’m guessing all I have to do is say a few little words and you’ll be yelling at me. So here I go. “This is Halloween. This is Halloween. Halloween Halloween Halloween Halloween.” Is it stuck in your head now too? If not I'm happy to help out with that. Simply watch the video below, dance along and in 12 hours start pulling your hair out.

I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? No? How about if I share a super fast snack mix idea?

If you’re like me and the last thing you want to do today is cook, clean or bake this might help. It's a crazy lazy mix to take along to a party or to crunch and munch at home while waiting for all those big and small trick-or-treaters to show.

After all, it might be your last chance this year to pick up a bag of candy corn mix.

Last Chance Snack Mix
To make this even easier, use a large bag of Cracker Jacks or pick up a big bag of your favorite caramel corn. Print Version.

1 microwave bag caramel corn, popped
1 cup mini pretzels
1 cup Autumn Candy Corn mix
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

Shake out caramel corn into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine.

By Laura Flowers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Monster Mouths

Clara’s 4th grade class is in the middle of their Halloween party right now. The first one where we parents aren’t needed to stick around. The kids had it all under control and it was even their idea to throw a healthy party.

When I dropped off this platter I spotted a giant fruit salad and other healthy goodies. I’m pretty proud of them. How often are kids willing to skip the sugar?

Maybe the 4th graders are teaching us something. Maybe we don’t need those sugary snacks for a fun party, just a reason to celebrate and some healthy treats.

Oh course, I’m pretty sure they won’t be turning down any trick-or-treat candy Monday evening. But I’m still proud of them.

Monster Mouths
I love these! They were so easy too. Print Recipe.

Granny Smith apples
Juice of 1 lemon
Peanut butter
Yogurt covered raisins

1. Add lemon juice to a large bowl and fill with cold water.

2. Slice apples into wedges. Soak in the lemon water for about 10 minutes. Strain and pat dry.

3. Spread or pipe peanut butter on one side of apple slices. Place a few raisins on half the apples. Gently sandwich together.

By Laura Flowers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats

4 out of 5 children will not eat these treats. In fact, those same 4 out of 5 children will sit about whining loudly that they are absolutely starving to death while these cereal bars sit on festive plates directly in front of them, forcing you to make two big bowls of popcorn so these same 4 out of 5 children won’t keel over from extreme after school hunger.

The fifth child will actually eat these bars and not complain. As for the adults, they'll enjoy the fall themed flavor variety of these classic cereal bars and grab a second one.

Not the 4 out of 5 children however. When asking the 4 out of 5 children why they detest these blameless bars they’ll tell you “because they’re different”, and a couple of them will even be too scared to try a taste.

Change is difficult. I’ll give them a few years.

Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats
Candy corns are cute, but definitely optional. Print Version.

1/4 cup butter
10 ounce bag Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows
6 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup caramel or plain candy corn

Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan; lightly grease foil.

Microwave butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 45 seconds, or until melted. Add marshmallows; toss to coat. Microwave 1 1/2 minutes, or until marshmallows are completely melted, stirring after 45 seconds. Add cereal, mix well. Press cereal mixture firmly onto bottom of prepared pan and press candy corns lightly into top of cereal bars.

Remove cereal mixture from pan, using foil handles. Cut into squares.

Recipe from back of Kraft Jet-Puffed package. Pictures by Laura Flowers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

There are many ways to make chicken noodle soup, but I tend to prefer this method. Maybe because I like my soup vegetables the same texture as the noodles, but more honestly it’s probably because I’m lazy and this is a less fussy process.

The vegetables and chicken make the broth and soup at the same time, keeping the cooking effort to a minimum. Which is nice.

What you’ll need here is time to let everything simmer. About 2 1/2 hours of it. So this is something I like to make when I’m futzing around the house working on other projects.

Chicken Noodle Soup
This is probably one of our family's favorite recipes. Print Recipe.

1 pound carrots cut into 1/2” thick rounds
1/2 pound celery, cut into 1/2” thick pieces
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 pound chicken, cut up
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
14.5 ounce can chicken broth
8 cups water
12-ounce package frozen egg noodles

1. Stir the carrots, celery, onion, chicken bouillon granules, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, bay leaves and chicken broth together in a large pot or Dutch oven; top with chicken skin side up. Pour the water over chicken.

2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Scoop out chicken and set aside.

3. Return soup to a simmer. Add noodles, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, discard skin and pull meat off of the bones. Shred into bite sized pieces. When noodles are done, return chicken to soup; discard skin and bones. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

By Laura Flowers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Drunk Blood Punch

It wouldn’t be right to celebrate Halloween without some kind of festive vat of red punch. Even Bones, our creepy skeleton night watch seems to approve.

For a family friendly Halloween fruit punch just leave the spirits out. Or for a mixed crowd, add 1-ounce of clear rum or vodka to individual 1-cup servings.

Drunk Blood Punch
Michaels sells Halloween shades of drink food coloring by Wilton that will make your punch more blood red than normal food dye. Print Recipe.

4 cups apple juice
46-fluid ounce can fruit punch
6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
6-ounce can frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
2-liter bottle lemon lime soda
1 1/2 cups vodka or clear rum
Red food coloring, to preference

Combine everything together in a very large punch bowl or two. Stir to combine and chill until ready to use.

Makes about seventeen 8-ounce servings.

By Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slow Cooker Pork Chops in Dijon Paprika Sauce

This slow cooker recipe reminds me a little bit of a past trip to Budapest, or what I remember of Budapest, which is the food of course.

Most of the dishes I consumed were meat and potatoes with various sauces, many with paprika and mustard. Always with lots of red wine, which gave me nasty hangovers and cravings for more rich and saucy meat and potato dishes.

Slow Cooker Pork Chops in Dijon Paprika Sauce
Print Recipe.
Jesse liked this meal so well he ate his portion and the extra one too.

1 1/2 pounds mixed baby red, purple and white potatoes

1 (10 3/4 ounce) can Campbell's Healthy Choice Cream of Chicken Soup 

1/4 cup cooking sherry

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
4 pork chops, any type

1. Grease the slow cooker with light colored oil. Scrub the potatoes and place them snuggled together in a large oval slow cooker.

2. In a bowl, mix together soup, sherry, Dijon, garlic, thyme, paprika and pepper. Pour mixture over potatoes.

3. In a large skillet, melt the butter until the foam subsides over high heat. Gently add the pork chops and season with salt and pepper. Sear both sides.

4. Place pork chops on top of the potatoes. Scrape pan drippings into the slow cooker.

5. Cover and cook on low heat for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 1/2. Plate and spoon sauce over potatoes and pork chops. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

By Laura Flowers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ghostly Pretzel Sticks

Salty, sweet, fast, cute and fun. This is my favorite kind of Halloween treat!

Ghostly Pretzel Sticks
Candy melts and Wilton Icing are from Michaels. Print Recipe.

About 2-3 dozen pretzel rods
1 package white candy melts
1 squeeze bottle Wilton Black Icing

1. Set out a long sheet of wax paper near your working area. Melt candy melts in microwave according to package directions in a small, deep bowl.

2. Dip about 2 1/2-inches of pretzel into candy melts. Shake off excess. Place on wax paper to dry. Repeat.

3. Once dry, warm black icing in the microwave with the lid off for about 20 seconds. Screw lid back on and pipe on ghost eyes and mouths. Set on wax paper until dry.

By Laura Flowers.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wicked Witch Cupcakes

For this fun Halloween project, McCormick and Kitchen Play sent over food coloring and vanilla extract to spark my imagination into proper holiday gear. I think it worked, or I hope it did anyway.

With a bit of adult help, even small kids can make these spooky cupcakes. The cone hats are fragile, so I recommend adults make those first since they’ll need time to dry anyway.

The rest of the decorating, and maybe even the cupcake preparation with some supervision can be handed off to the younger set.

Wicked Witch Cupcakes

It looks like there’s a lot of frosting here and there is, but you’re going to need all of it. Print Recipe

1 package (18 1/4 ounces) chocolate cake mix
1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
24 chocolate wafer cookies
24 ice cream sugar cones
5 (4.25 ounce) tubes black decorating icing
McCormick® Assorted Food Colors
2 containers vanilla frosting
3 (3.75 ounce) packages Rips Whips colored licorice
24 Sour Patch Sour Apple Candies (Found in bulk bin.)
48 brown Sixlets chocolate coated candies (You’ll have to fish them out of a normal package.)
Small round tip & piping bag for eyes, optional
24 plastic spiders, optional
24 Halloween cupcake liners (Michaels is a great place to find them.)

1. One at a time, with the black decorating icing, frost the top of a wafer cookie and the outside of an ice-cream cone. Carefully place the cone on the cookie to make a hat. Set aside to dry for 4 or more hours. Repeat with the rest of the cones and cookies. Keep any remaining black frosting for spider attachment.

2. Meanwhile, prepare cake mix as directed on package for cupcakes, adding vanilla. Bake as directed on package for cupcakes. Cool cupcakes on wire rack.

3. Tint frosting green with 2 parts green food color and 1 part yellow food color until desired color is reached. Frost cupcakes.

4. Using scissors cut the licorice in half. Take 1 of each color and place them around the cupcake for hair. Trim any ends that are too long. Frost the bottom of hats and place them on the cupcakes with enough room to place on faces.

5. Place a small amount of black decorating icing on the bottom of plastic spiders and attach them to hats.

6. Gently set Sixlets eyes and sour candy apple mouths on cupcakes. Place a couple tablespoons of green frosting in a piping bag and dot on eyes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Set time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes

McCormick is also sponsoring a wonderful giveaway at Kitchen PLAY. Simply recreate any one recipe from this month’s SideCar Series, post about the experience on your blog and provide a link to your post on Kitchen PLAY to enter. All qualifying bloggers in each course will be entered to win $50 (10 prizes total). The deadline is October 31, 2011. Please review the complete contest rules before entering. Good luck!

Recipe inspired by McCormick’s Wicked Witch Cupcakes. Photography by Laura Flowers.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Garlic Chicken Tacos with Lemon Avocado Sauce

Happy National Taco Day!

Yes, it’s really National Taco Day. I don’t know how you get to be important enough to get on the list for your own holiday, but tacos probably do deserve their own celebration. Especially garlic chicken tacos.

Utilizing a rotisserie chicken, this is a fairly speedy weeknight meal.

Garlic Chicken Tacos with Lemon Avocado Sauce
If your serving this to kids (or the heat impaired) you can leave out the jalapeno in the chicken and reduce the sauce’s cayenne pepper to just a pinch. Print Recipe

Lemon Avocado Sauce

1/2 peeled ripe avocado
2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Puree the ingredients together in a small food processor. Set aside.

Garlic Chicken Tacos
1 package stand ‘n stuff corn taco shells
1 rotisserie chicken
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
Shredded iceberg lettuce for garnish
1 tomato, diced

1. Heat up taco shells according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, remove the skin from chicken and discard. Remove meat and shred it into bite size pieces using your hands. Set aside.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, garlic and jalapeno and cook until chicken is warmed through, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Stuff tacos with chicken and garnish with lettuce, tomato and a drizzle of lemon avocado sauce.

Recipe inspired by a tostada in Cooking Light Magazine, September 2011. Picture and recipe by Laura Flowers.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Qdoba Copycat Queso & Ghoulish Goodies Giveaway

Halloween being my favorite holiday, I thought I’d kick off October with a giveaway. A winner for the totally adorable and doable monster filled cookbook Ghoulish Goodies will be drawn on October 13th.

For your part, leave a comment with your favorite Halloween food or recipe.

This queso sauce/dip won’t be in there though, but it’s an idea I’ve been meaning to tackle for awhile. My family really likes Qdoba’s queso and I wanted to create a copycat. After a few variations I feel this one is pretty close to the real one, but please let me know what you think.

The spooky chips are "Frights Bites Tortilla Chips" from the local grocery store.

Qdoba Copycat Queso
You should be able to find Philadelphia Cooking Creme in the refrigerator section near the cream cheese. Print Recipe

2 poblano peppers
10-ounce container Philadelphia Cooking Creme
8-ounce package Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese
2 medium tomatoes, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 cup water
Cayenne pepper, to taste

1. Place peppers on a hot grill or under a broiler. Blacken the skins on all sides. Place them in a paper bag and roll top down to seal. Set aside until cool to touch, about 30 minutes. Peel off skins and discard seeds and stems. Chop peppers very fine.

2. Add chopped peppers, cooking creme, cheese, tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and paprika to a medium size pot and stir over low heat until cheese is melted.

3. Add the cilantro, water and cayenne pepper and stir for another minute or so until it thickens to preference.

4. Turn off heat and serve immediately as a dip or sauce.

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grilled Ham, Pepperoni and Italian Cheese Sandwich

Have you ever used turkey pepperoni before? If not, give it a try. I like it quite a bit. It’s just as good and far less greasy than the regular type.

Grilled Ham, Pepperoni and Italian Cheese Sandwich
For even more flavor, tuck a few peppercinis or a couple thin slices of tomato into your sandwich before grilling. Print Recipe

Sliced buttermilk bread
Black Forrest Deli Ham
Turkey Pepperoni
Shredded Italian cheese

Heat up a skillet or sandwich press to medium high. Butter outsides of bread. Make sandwiches with ham, pepperoni and cheese to preference. Grill until golden brown.

By Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

“Cream” of Broccoli Soup

It feels like it’s been while since I shared a healthful pure vegetarian recipe.

Or maybe I need a break from all the Halloween treat stuff I've been working on. Either way, I'm ready for soup season.

Instead of a typical cream base, I used rice for thickness and body. It’s still good, but you can eat a whole lot more without any guilt whatsoever

“Cream” of Broccoli Soup
You’ll need a blender or food processor for this one. Cooked and pureed rice is the cream base for this healthy vegetable soup. Print Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped onions
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 pound bag broccoli florets
2 (14.5 ounce) cans vegetable broth
6 cups water
2/3 cups uncooked white rice
3 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of cayenne

1. Heat oil over medium-high in an extra large pot. Add onions and cook until tender and start to brown. Deglaze the pan with wine.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cover. Cook until rice and broccoli are tender, about 30-35 minutes.

3. Puree soup with a blender in batches. Return to pan, add more salt and pepper if needed and serve.

By Laura Flowers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Real Chiles Rellenos

A cell phone picture with my half eaten plate doesn’t do this dish justice, but I’m a lazy photographer and didn’t take my camera to my parents’ house this weekend. I had other plans, like golf and more golf. Not shooting and styling pictures of truly amazing Mexican breakfasts.

My Dad spent two early morning hours making these chiles rellenos with freshly picked poblanos from the garden. Who does that? For crying out loud I had toast and tea for breakfast this morning.

I think I might be pouting a little and need a Sunday morning do-over. Starting with breakfast and ending with lots of golf. I’d even settle just for another fresh-fried chile relleno.

Real Chiles Rellenos
"Chiles rellenos, that classic Mexican dish of cheese-stuffed fried peppers, is made from scratch in this recipe. Make the stuffed peppers ahead of time and freeze; then take out and fry another day to make your dinner preparation easier." Print Recipe

4 large poblano peppers
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup all-purpose flour for dredging

1 (14.5 ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Cholula®)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 egg whites at room temperature
1 egg yolk, beaten

1/4 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
1 cup oil for frying, or as needed
Sour cream for garnish

1. Preheat the oven's broiler and set the oven rack at about 6 inches from the heat source. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the peppers onto the prepared baking sheet.

2. Cook under the preheated broiler until the skin of the peppers has blackened and blistered, 8 to 10 minutes per side. When the peppers are about 80 percent blackened, place them a plastic bag, seal, and allow the peppers to steam as they cool, about 20 minutes. Once cool, remove the skins and discard. Cut a slit lengthwise into the side of each pepper, and remove seeds and veins. To reduce spiciness, rinse out any remaining seeds with water. Pat the peppers dry with paper towels.

3. Mix together the shredded mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and Cheddar cheese in a bowl until thoroughly blended. Divide the cheese into 4 portions, and squeeze each portion lightly in your hands to make a cone shape. Insert a cone into the slit in each pepper, and pin the openings closed with toothpicks. Dredge each pepper in flour, dust off the excess, and place on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. Place the peppers in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

4. To make sauce, blend the stewed tomatoes in a blender until pureed, and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and cook and stir the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook and stir for about 30 seconds, and pour in the pureed tomatoes, chicken broth, vinegar, oregano, cumin, black pepper, hot pepper sauce, and cinnamon. Reduce to medium-low, and simmer the sauce until reduced by half and thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring often.

5. Preheat an oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C), and warm a platter in the oven.

6. To make batter and finish the chiles rellenos, mix 1/3 cup flour with salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until the whites form stiff peaks. Lightly mix the egg yolk and flour-salt mixture into the egg whites to make a fluffy batter. Remove peppers from freezer and coat them in flour again; shake off excess flour, and dip each pepper into the egg batter, using a spoon to gently but completely coat each pepper with batter.

7. Heat frying oil in a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Gently lay the coated peppers into the hot oil, and fry on both sides until the batter is golden brown and the cheese filling is hot, about 5 minutes per side. Remove peppers to warmed platter while you finish frying. To serve, ladle a generous spoonful of sauce onto plate, and place pepper on sauce. Serve peppers hot with a dollop of sour cream.

Servings Per Recipe: 4

Prep Time: 45 Minutes Cook Time: 45 Minutes Ready In: 2 Hours 20 Minutes

Nutrition Information
Calories: 418; Total Fat 22.9g; cholesterol 89mg; Sodium 880mg; Total Carbs 33.9g; Fiber 4.9g; Protein 21g

Recipe submitted by *Fat~Dog~Lane* to

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chicken & Dumplings. Weekend comfort food.

Ahh. Hear that? Silence. Or almost.

Actually, there’s Wii Pet Sports “music” droning repeatedly in the background, a barking begging dancing dog hoping I’ll drop anything semi edible, the sizzling of potatoes and bacon and the rolling boil of a tea kettle. Other than that it’s a pretty peaceful Saturday.

Which is the kind of day that’s nice for taking two hours for boiling chicken on a stove. It doesn’t take much work, but the waiting time is long. Prep work is minimal if you can purchase a cut up chicken. If not, the instructional video below from the sadly defunct Gourmet Magazine is fantastic if you need a little help.

So please don’t let cutting up a chicken stop you from making this comforting classic.

Chicken & Dumplings
If you prefer a thicker broth, mix together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water and stir it into the soup before adding the shredded chicken. Print Recipe

1 large broiler-fryer chicken, cut up
3 celery ribs, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium onions, diced
1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans chicken broth
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk or chicken broth
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Stir the celery, carrots, onion, chicken broth, parsley, chicken bouillon granules, salt and pepper in a large pot or Dutch oven; top with chicken skin side up. Add enough water to cover chicken.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until chicken is done.
Remove chicken and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Remove skin from chicken and tear meat away from bones. Shred chicken into bite size pieces. (Add cornstarch here if using.) Return meat to soup; discard skin and bones. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Return soup to a simmer.

In a mixing bowl, combine dumpling ingredients and mix well to form a stiff dough. Drop by tablespoonfuls into simmering soup.

Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 5 to 6 servings.

Adapted from Steph's Country Kitchen Goodness and Picture by Laura Flowers.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pork Noodle Bowls

Thursday after school is art day around here. A surprisingly good-natured college student attempts to teach a room full of noisy messy chatty silly 9-year-old girls how to draw.

Which is fun for all of us, but most of my time is spent trying to quiet them down enough for the young woman to teach, sweeping up crumbs and popcorn, telling the dog to stop barking and wiping down walls where mysterious smears appear from charcoal coated hands.

So this was a simple and inexpensive alternative to going out to eat last night. I think the prep took about ten minutes and the cooking time was about the same.

Pork Noodle Bowls
Once you start cooking everything is going to go too fast for prep work, so have your ingredients ready before you begin. Print Recipe

3 packages ramen noodles, any flavor
2 teaspoons chili oil
.75 pounds thinly sliced boneless pork chops or other pork cuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, Cut the pork into bite size strips. In an extra-large skillet heat the chili oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and stir-fry until no longer pink. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Carefully add the chicken broth and soy sauce. Scrape the bottom of the pan while you stir.

3. Bring the broth to a boil. Add the spinach and carrot. Cook until spinach is wilted and carrot is cooked, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat.

4. Place the ramen noodles in the boiling water (throw away the flavor packets). Cook for exactly two minutes and strain. Place noodles and cilantro in with the pork mixture. Toss well and let the broth soak into the noodles for a couple of minutes.

Serves 4.

By Laura Flowers.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheeseburger Skillet Dinner

I won a battle. Clara walked up to the skillet and said, “Mom that looks good!” She didn’t even notice the vegetables right away. Until she started eating, but she finished her dinner for a change anyway.

This isn’t anything fancy obviously, and maybe that’s the key. If the school lunch humans would mix vegetables into their meals instead of leaving them as a side, maybe more would be eaten instead of tossed untouched into garbage cans.

Too bad there are all those stupid rules that prevent any creativity from the school lunch staff. Maybe someday, and someday soon. Things are starting to change for the better I hear. Clara came home last week and bragged about the slices of fresh cantaloupe on her tray.

It’s a good start.

Cheeseburger Skillet Dinner
Print Recipe
A fast, fun and slightly adapted Taste of Home recipe.

1 package deluxe macaroni and cheese, the type with the sauce packet (I used Annie’s Creamy Deluxe Shells & Real Aged Cheddar Sauce.)
1-pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
Dash of seasoning salt
1 package (16 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables (without lima beans)
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown beef with the onion and a dash of seasoning salt, drain. Stir in vegetables, ketchup, water, mustard and garlic powder. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Mix in macaroni and cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Yield: 4-6 servings. Total time 25 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sausage Apple & Red Potato Skillet

This is so stinking easy and tasty that it's going in my arsenal of emergency what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-feed-the-family recipes.

A skillet like this will be especially helpful on those days I sneak away on my bike for several hours. I can see myself telling Jesse, “Oh yeah Honey, I spent the time and made that skillet dinner you really like.”

Who needs Hamburger Helper anyway?

Sausage Apple & Red Potato Skillet
Print Recipe
This super quick skillet dinner will be ready to serve in less than 20 minutes.

3 tablespoons butter
12-ounce package apple chicken sausage
20-ounce package refrigerated rosemary garlic red potato wedges
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
1 apple, cut into wedges
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar

1. In a very large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. Slice the sausage into 3/4-inch pieces and add them to the skillet. Cook until both sides of the sausage brown.

2. Add the potatoes, onions and apple slices. Toss to combine and continue to cook until the potatoes are golden brown.

3. Stir together vinegar and sugar and pour the mixture into the skillet. Stir to coat and cover with a lid. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the potatoes and apples are tender and the vinegar is absorbed.

Recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shortcut Gnocchi with Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce

My goal this week is to cook all our dinners because we’ve been eating out way too much this month. We’re busy like everyone else, but I need to get control of this time crunch issue.

Today’s recipe is a combination of an easy gnocchi recipe and my favorite vodka sauce from Cooks Illustrated.

Shortcut Potato Gnocchi

This recipe uses a food processor, but can be made in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment instead. Each batch serves about 3 people, if you need more gnocchi make a second batch.

1 cup water

1 egg

1 teaspoon butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour

2 cups instant potato flakes 

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, place the water, egg, butter, salt and garlic powder in the food processor. Process until combined. Add the flour and pulse to mix in. Add the potato flakes and pulse to combine.

3. Move dough to a clean surface and knead for about 20 seconds. Grab chunks of dough and form into snakes. Cut 1/2 inch wide pieces from snakes and roll each piece into a ball with a fork. Pull the fork back toward you for a roll or two to make gnocchi shape.

4. Gently boil gnocchi until they float to the top and then cook for two more minutes. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and serve with your favorite sauce.

Gnocchi with Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce
Print Both Recipes
There's enough sauce here for two batches of gnocchi.

1 or 2 recipes Shortcut Gnocchi, above
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup minced onion

1 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes


1/3 cup vodka

½ cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons minced fresh basil

Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

1. Make gnocchi, set aside on wax paper.

2. Start heating heavily salted water for pasta. Puree half of the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Chop the remaining tomatoes into ½ inch pieces, discarding the cores. Combined the pureed and diced tomatoes in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Add reserved liquid to make 2 cups.

3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is light golden around the edges, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Stir in the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add the vodka. Return the pan to medium high heat and simmer, stirring often for 10 minutes to cook off the vodka. (Lower heat to medium if simmering is too vigorous.) Stir in the cream and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until hot.

5. Cook the gnocchi according to the above directions. Drain and place gnocchi in a serving dish. Top with sauce, season with a little salt, pepper and handful of Pecorino Romano.

Gnocchi original recipe source from Adapted by Laura Flowers for a one bowl method. Sauce recipe from "The Best of America's Test Kitchen, Best Recipes and Reviews 2008". Picture by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chunka Hunka Chocolove Cookies

Desserts haven’t really been my thing lately, but when my friend Veronica won a blue ribbon at a fair for my chocolate chip version of this cookie I couldn’t resist playing around and making a chunky chocolate variation.

Be forewarned. This isn’t your average chocolate chip cookie preparation. So please don’t swear at me too much when you discover how many dishes stack up in your sink.

Chunka Hunka Chocolove Cookies
Print Recipe
If milk chocolate is more your thing than dark, swap out the 65% cocoa bar for another 33% one.

1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cups fresh light brown sugar, packed

3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon real vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups good quality all purpose flour

1 cup walnut pieces
3.2 ounce bar Chocolove 65% Cocoa Content
3.2 ounce bar Chocolove 55% Cocoa Content
3.2 ounce bar Chocolove 33% Cocoa Content

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Chop chocolate bars into small chunks. Set aside.

3. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat toast the oatmeal stirring often until fragrant and some of the oatmeal is light golden in color. About 3 minutes. Transfer the oatmeal to a food processer and grind until fine and powdery. Set aside.

4. In the skillet, melt 1 stick of the butter over medium heat until foamy and lightly golden brown. Strain out solids and place butter in the refrigerator to cool to about room temperature.

5. Spread the walnuts onto a plate and microwave in 30 second increments 2 or 3 times until toasted, stirring in-between. Let the walnuts cool slightly.

6. Mix in a stand mixer the softened butter, browned butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and vinegar into the and beat on slow to combine, and then on high speed until fluffy and lighter in color.

7. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Add the oatmeal and baking soda and beat for another minute. Next, add the flour half at a time and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

8. Stir in chocolate pieces with all their crumbs and the walnuts with a wooden spoon.

9. With a size 50 cookie scoop or a generous tablespoon, drop the dough onto parchment paper 3 inches apart.

10. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden around the edges. Remove from oven and let set on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Makes about 45 cookies.

By Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lighter Salmon Potato Chowder

I believe you can keep every bit of flavor and still lighten up favorite heavy comfort foods if you allow for part of those rich ingredients to stay. Here I’ve reduced the amount of cheese and butter the original recipe calls for and traded milk for heavy cream. I also added a bit of sherry and dill to enhance the flavor of this creamy chowder.

Lighter Salmon Potato Chowder
Print Recipe
If you’re not a fan of salmon feel free to make this hearty chowder with any firm-fleshed white fish.

3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup finely diced onions
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
14.5 ounce can chicken broth (low sodium preferred)
2 tablespoons cooking sherry
2 cups diced Yukon Gold potatoes (skin on is fine)
About 1 pound fresh salmon
1 cup frozen petite peas
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Toss 1 teaspoon of flour with the cheddar in a small bowl. Set aside. Cut salmon into bite size pieces removing any bones you find.

2. In a large pot melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery and onion and cook until vegetables are tender. About 5 minutes.

3. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour over the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes or until the roux is golden.

4. Add the chicken broth, sherry and potatoes. Cover and gently boil until potatoes are fork tender, about 8 minutes. Stir about every 2 minutes so vegetables don’t stick to the bottom.

5. Add the salmon, peas, milk, cheddar mixture, parsley, salt, dill and black pepper. Bring to a simmer until the salmon is cooked through, the cheese is melted and chowder thickens to taste.

8 Servings

Nutrition Per Serving
Calories 277.9 Total Fat 13.1 g Saturated Fat 6.9 g Polyunsaturated Fat 1.4 g Monounsaturated Fat 3.6 g Cholesterol 70.5 mg Sodium 7,304.4 mg Potassium 510.2 mg Total Carbohydrate 16.3 g Dietary Fiber 2.2 g Sugars 4.9 g Protein 22.5 g

By Laura Flowers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Simple Fresh Salsa

Some years we get ripe tomatoes and others we get frozen green ones. Fortunately, this year we’ve been enjoying an extended hot summer so there are plenty of garden ripe tomatoes to pilfer out of other peoples’ gardens. 

If you do attempt to steal produce don't forget to laugh evilly as you sneak away.

Simple Fresh Salsa

Whether on eggs, grilled chicken, beefy tacos, or crunchy tortilla chips this simple little salsa tastes better when you snag a few tomatoes from your parents’ garden. 

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup diced onion

1 tablespoon lime juice

3 tablespoons cilantro, diced

2 teaspoons minced jalapenos

Salt to taste

Mix together, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes about 1 cup.

By Laura Flowers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Brown Spanish Rice & Healthy Tostadas

I don’t have many recipes to share this week, mainly sticking to already posted favorites.

Meals have been easy. Things like vegan tostadas, grilled thinly sliced apple and sharp cheddar sandwiches, Slow Cooker Spicy Bison Chili, Coaches Oats Multigrain Pancakes with pan fried apples and toasted walnuts and doctored up jarred pasta sauce over linguini. Dessert was a low sugar banana pudding recipe that needs more testing.

I have a favorite new tea too. Stash Peppermint with an ounce of sugar-free vanilla syrup and a splash of milk. This past month has been a struggle to break my caffeine and sugar habits, but I feel I’m finally over these addictions.

Brown Spanish Rice has been a gem in my staples lately. Here as a base for flavorful tostadas.

To make these healthy tostadas, warm corn tostadas as directed on the package, smear on Spanish Brown Rice, sprinkle with warm pinto beans, shredded lettuce, fresh salsa and black olives.

Brown Spanish Rice
Print Recipe
You’ll need a rice cooker for this recipe. Though you can cook this one entirely on the stovetop, I don’t recommend it unless you want to switch out the brown rice for white because it tends to be crunchy. For white rice on the stove, place a tight lid on your sauté pan and cook for about 30 to 35 minutes on a low-simmer, or until the liquid is absorbed.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup chopped onion
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups veggie, chicken or beef broth
1 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until toasted. Move the rice mixture to a rice cooker.

2. Add the broth, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and salt to the rice cooker. Select the proper setting according to your rice cooker and press start.

Nutrition per half cup of rice: 93.6 calories. 3g fat. 14.6g carbohydrates. 2.8g protein.

SparkPeople recipe adapted for a rice cooker by Laura Flowers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Slow Cooker Green Salsa Chicken

I don’t know about you, but it’s been busy around here this week. Clara’s school started back up, we’ve had golf lessons, gymnastics, cycling group and on and on.

So really, this is just a shortcut version of Pollo en Chile Verde because I needed something quick and flavorful to save me from feeding my family fast food these super packed few days.

We ended up eating (inhaling) this soupy dish by itself with whole-wheat tortillas the first night, the next day for breakfast with black beans and scrambled eggs, and the following day stuffed into quesadillas.

So even though the 2 1/2 pounds of chicken needed for this recipe was expensive, I feel like I more than got my money’s worth in leftovers.

Slow Cooker Green Salsa Chicken
Print Recipe
Serve with tortillas, rice and beans if desired.

2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
16-ounce jar thick and chunky mild green salsa
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Stir the ingredients together in a slow cooker. Set on high for 5 to 7 hours. Stir occasionally if you’re around.

2. To thicken sauce, during the last hour or two of cooking time, carefully remove the lid as not drop the water from it back into the sauce. Shake lid into the sink and wipe it dry. Replace lid and repeat periodically until sauce is thickened to taste.

8 Servings.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 177.9 Total Fat 2.1 g Saturated Fat 0.5 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g Monounsaturated Fat 0.5 g Cholesterol 82.2 mg Sodium 519.8 mg Potassium 515.6 mg Total Carbohydrate 4.6 g Dietary Fiber 1.1 g Sugars 0.0 g Protein 33.7 g

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Roasted and Mashed Honey Yams

This crazy little recipe is so healthy and easy you may never boil your yams or sweet potatoes again.

Roasted and Mashed Honey Yams
Print Recipe
This dish is more dessert-like than savory, almost tempting me to top my portion with whipped cream.

2 1/2 pounds yams or sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup water
Cooking Spray

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Peel yams with a potato peeler and trim any tough woody edges off. Dice the potatoes into about 1-inch size pieces. Place them in baking dish. Drizzle with honey, salt and water. Cover dish with foil.

3. Baked at 350 for 50 minutes, or until fork tender. Carefully remove foil and mash yams in the dish. Move to a serving bowl.

4. Top with a little vegan butter or butter if desired, but I like to leave mine plain.

Serves 6.

Nutritional info without butter:
• Servings Per Recipe: 6
• Amount Per Serving
• Calories: 179.0
• Total Fat: 0.2 g
• Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
• Sodium: 399.1 mg
• Total Carbs: 43.3 g
• Dietary Fiber: 5.3 g
• Protein: 2.0 g

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnut & Tomato Panini

My friend Tina tortured us recently when she posted a picture of a similar sandwich to her Facebook. I don’t know where she got it, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

It always amazes me when something so simple can be this flavorful and satisfying.

Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnut & Tomato Panini
Print Recipe
This is the time to enjoy those summer tomatoes, especially delicate and flavorful heirloom varieties.

2 five-inch pieces French bread
4-ounce package herb coated goat cheese
2 ounces walnut pieces
1 cup arugula
Ripe tomato slices
Drizzle of olive oil

1. Preheat Panini press to medium-high. Toast walnut pieces on a plate in the microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside.

2. Cut bread to make two hoagie type sandwiches. Take some of the stuffing out of the center of each slice. Just enough so you have a tunnel to place ingredients.

3. Spray the outside of bread with cooking spray. Spread 2-ounces of goat cheese on each sandwich. Divide and layer on the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sandwich bread together.

4. Grill until cheese is warmed through and bread is toasted.

Serves 2.

Calories 603. Fiber 5g. Fat 36g. Carbohydrates 50. Sodium 733mg. Protein 23g. Chol 26mg.

Recipe inspired by friend Tina. Photo and recipe from Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Potato & Pea Cream Sauce

I think the best gifts I receive are food related, specifically fresh produce. So I felt lucky this weekend when my Dad walked me out to their garden and dug up enough vegetables to last us a week.

I don’t have specific plans for most of it, but the potatoes and peas were first on my list to use. At my parents, meals are centered around meat with veggies as a side, but I thought I’d turn their creamed potato and pea recipe into a late summer vegetarian pasta dish.

Jesse and I enjoyed this interpretation on a classic recipe, and using frozen ravioli kept it quick and inexpensive.

Clara on the other hand just ate the potatoes, but as a picky 9-year-old she believes ravioli should only come in cheese.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Potato & Pea Cream Sauce

Print Recipe
If your peas are fresh from the garden they might take about 7-10 minutes to cook, but if they come frozen, only boil them for 3-4 minutes.

1 pound waxy baby potatoes
1 cup shelled English peas
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups milk
25-ounce package frozen butternut squash ravioli (I used Safeway Select)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for ravioli.

2. If potatoes are large, half or quarter them into bite size pieces. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Boil potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. About two-thirds of the way through cooking time, add the peas. When both are tender, drain the pot.

3. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour to make a thick paste; gradually whisk in milk, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Meanwhile, cook the ravioli according to package directions. With a slotted spoon, move cooked ravioli to a platter. Cover with potatoes and peas then poor sauce over the top.

Recipe and photograph by Laura Flowers.

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