Tuesday, May 15, 2012

~Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa~

Holy cow was this good salmon!! How can anything go wrong with avocado?  I have just been in love with salmon lately; I can't get enough of it.  This is the perfect summer dinner in my opinion--fresh cilantro, avocado, red onion (with some other stuff) and fresh salmon.  I made this with white rice and baked broccoli.  I do also love summer grilling--who doesn't?  Summer is my absolute favorite season--the days stay light longer, the weather is warmer, the ocean water is also warmer, and grilling seems to happen several times a week.  My favorite smell of summer is the ocean air and Coppertone sun screen--there is no greater smell than that!

What you don't want to do is overcook the salmon--because then it's dry.  Dry salmon=no good.  What you do want to do is use lots and lots of avocado and cilantro :-)  This dish takes a total of maybe 20 minutes to make.  Who doesn't have time for that on a warm summer night?

Oil and season the salmon (I bought a pound fresh at Stater Bros....I never buy pre-packaged frozen salmon).  That's part of the secret to always having moist salmon.  Then grill those babies up!
Next, make the avocado salsa--chop up the veggies and slice the avocado.  I used one avocado for two people, which is a lot of avocado.  But seriously, I love it...There are 7 grams of protein in one avocado--yay for good fat!

Serves 4

You'll Need:

2 lbs. salmon, cut into 4 pieces
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander (I didn't put this in)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. black pepper
Avocado Salsa:
1 avocado (or more!) sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 mild hot peppers, seeded deveined, diced
Juice from 2 limes
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Get Busy:

Mix all the ingredients together for the salmon seasoning.  Rub the salmon fillets with the olive oil, then the seasoning mixture, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  While the grill is getting hot, make the salsa and chill in a bowl until the salmon is ready.  Grill the salmon; serve topped with avocado salsa.  This dish is also really good with tostones (which I will post soon!).  Enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

~Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing~

Oh, yum!  OOoooo how I love salads lately!  I had salad almost every day for lunch this week.  There is something incredibly refreshing about a salad--and I can't have a salad without a crunch!  This salad definitely has enough different textures to please your taste buds and tongue.

Mix together the chopped pecans, crackers, salt and cayenne.

Fry the coated chicken in light oil, enough to cover the pan and then some.  The chicken should be a good golden brown, and make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through.  A good idea is to flatten your chicken breast before cooking.

Once the chicken is cooked completely, chop into long thinner pieces.

...And voila! After you chop your lettuce and add some goodies, you have a delicious salad with lots of crunch and wonderful flavors.

Serves 3-4

You'll Need:
1 recipe pecan crusted chicken
1 recipe honey mustard dressing
8 c. romaine lettuce, sliced
1 apple or pear, thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
dried craisins

Mix lettuce with celery and place in serving bowl.  Make a circle with apple slices and place chicken on top.  Spring some craisins and drizzle the dressing over all.

4 chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness (1/2 inch)
1/2 c. pecans
12 saltine crackers
1/4 tsp. salt
dash pepper
pinch cayenne

1/3 c. milk
2 eggs

Combine pecans, crackers, salt, pepper and cayenne in a food processor or blender and blend until finely ground.  With a shallow plate, put the pecan mixture on one plate.  In a bowl, combine milk and eggs and mix well with a fork.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat with about 1/2 inch oil for frying.  Dip chicken in egg mixture, then coat with pecan mixture, pressing pecans into chicken.  Fry coated chicken in hot oil, flipping sides until cooked through. (Or you can bake the chicken in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes for a healthier alternative).

Honey Mustard Dressing:
1/2 c. honey
1/4 dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. mayonnaise

Chop garlic in food processor.  Add the rest of the ingredients and chill until served.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Weekend with the Ladies

Well I got to have a really fun getaway with most of the girls in my family--excluding all kiddos minus Little Dirk (Ashley's).  We spent the weekend in Palm Springs and it was about 95 degrees--perfect layout weather, if you ask me!  Aunt Jayne met up with us for a little bit and surprised us with fresh chocolate chip cookies--ahh so delicious.  Funny too, because we had just been talking about how much we needed something sweet.  Ohh Aunt Jayne you know us Hoovers :-)

It was nice to get away from the guys and kids (and Dirk was quiet so we hardly knew he was there).  We got some great sun and swam in the heated pool.

Supermom treated us to pedicures which felt sooo good.

The ladies at the pool.  The only downfall of this weekend was that I got pretty sick.  On Saturday I went to urgent care, and the doctor said I had an ear infection in both ears and a major sore throat--ugh. (I could have told him that...just give me the drugs man and no one will get hurt).  I am still sick but feeling better...I thought only kids got ear infections...? Weird.  If you're going to be sick however, the best place is in the sun and with mama there to rub your back :-)

For dinner one night, we went to a delicious restaurant called Jackalope Ranch.  Our food was pretty awesome (and so were the misters that kept us a little cooler!).
Me and my beautiful sis-in-law, Kelli.  One of the prettiest pregnant girls I know!  It was nice to have a weekend away...and then back to the usual grind.  The whole fambam is going boating for Memorial Day weekend.  I seriously can't wait!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

~Strawberry Jam~

Homemade strawberry jam always makes me a little nostalgic.  I grew up helping Supermom make jam every year.  We used to make batch after batch after batch of strawberry jam around this time, since it's strawberry season.  You can't hate getting a box of strawberries for $.99 can you?? Strawberries are my favorite :-) Here is to the first batch of the season!

Now normally, the amount I made calls for 4 cups of sugar.  4 CUPS!! That is a lot of freaking sugar.  So...I changed it up a little to make it a little healthier.  Instead of 4 cups of sugar, I used 1 cup of regular granulated sugar, and 1 cup of agave.  My jam may be runnier than others, but it is healthier too.  Sometimes homemade strawberry jam simply has too much sugar.  Ya, it's not sugarless jam, but it's better than 4 cups of sugar!
Makes 3 container's/jar's worth

You'll Need:

about 4 c. diced strawberries
1/3 c. ball fruit pectin
1 c. sugar
1 c. agave

Get Busy:

Mash your strawberries (or I put mine in the Blendtec because I like my jam smoother rather than chunky).  Combine the mashed strawberries and pectin in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Slowly add sugar and agave and constantly stir under high heat for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and pour into the containers or jars.  Keep refrigerated once done.  You can use it immediately or you can freeze this jam up to a year, which makes a great gift.  I mean, honestly, who doesn't love homemade jam?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

~Baked French Toast Casserole~

Oh my my! I heart French toast, and I also heart Paula Deen! This woman makes amazing food (albeit, it seems most of her food has a ton of butter or cream in it...)!  I got this recipe from her, and every time I make or eat it, it's soooo good and moist.  The praline topping makes this money!

I will admit the first time I made this recipe, I was really excited to make it...so excited, I didn't read all the instructions before starting it.  So one morning I woke up to make this casserole, and realized the bread needs to soak overnight! Aargh.  I made the mistake of not letting it soak and just cooked it the way it was.  Bad idea.  Most of the liquid cooked out and my casserole was left dry.  Boo.  When I made it last week, I remembered my woe, and prepared it the night before.  The next day before work, I popped it in the oven, and by the time I was done getting ready for work, it was done and smelling like heaven!

There is something about French toast...ahhh.  I was too lazy to make the raspberry syrup that goes with this, but even without it, it's fabulous.
I made a half recipe for J and me.  Full recipe will serve 6-8

You'll Need:

French toast: 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. sugar
1 c. milk
8 eggs
2 c. half & half
1 loaf French bread
Praline Topping: 1/2 lb. butter
1 c. packed brown sugar (I like dark)
1 c. chopped pecans
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 ground nutmeg
Raspberry Syrup: 1 c. raspberry preserves
3 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. raspberry liqueur

Get Busy:

Slice French bread into 20 1-inch thick slices.  Generously butter the bottom of a 9x13 pan and arrange slices in 2 rows overlapping in the pan.  In a large bowl, combine eggs, half & half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk until blended.  Pour mixture over bread slices, making sure all pieces are evenly covered.  Cover with foil; refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Make praline topping:  combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Spread topping evenly over the bread and bake for 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the syrup:  combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until warm and thinned out like syrup.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

~Hearty Vegetable Soup~

Well, hello easy delicious soup!  Where have you been the last couple months that I work late?? I needed you!!  I work late a few nights a week and don't get home until 8:30 or later sometimes...It's safe to say I do not want to come home and make a full meal that will take an hour or so to prepare. I don't really feel like eating after 9:30 at night!  SO I end up using my crock pot once a week, at least.  I sometimes get stuck on new recipes.  I was given a crock pot cookbook for my bridal shower, but a lot of the recipes only require 4-6 hours of cooking...and I'm gone for much longer than that.  Ugh.  So I found this beauty of a recipe in that cookbook actually, and oohhhhhh it's good!  It takes five minutes to put together.  Who doesn't have 5 minutes in the morning to make a full-blown meal?  Not only is it really good, it's really healthy.  Woot woot for super easy healthy meals.  Lean meat, corn, onions, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes...all very good.  I didn't actually put the potatoes in when I made this...either I didn't have any at the time, or I simply forgot.  I'm betting I forgot...
Serves 4-6

You'll Need:

1 lb. round steak, cubed
1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 c. water
2 brown potatoes, peeled, cubed (optional)
1 onion, diced
15 baby carrots (or however many)
1 can green beans, with liquid
1 can whole kernel corn, with liquid
3 cubes beef bouillon
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Get Busy:

Throw all of that in the crock pot.  Cover and cook on high heat for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve with cornbread or bran muffins.  Enjoy!  Soo good.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

~Italian Sunday Casserole~

I am not too keen on casseroles normally (because they tend to be unhealthy), but this casserole is delicious AND very healthy!  I also don't usually like Italian sausages (I know, I'm a disgrace to my race), but I actually really enjoyed them in this dish!  This casserole is very easy to make, and can be made in advance.  I put it together Sunday morning so I could simply relax after church (who doesn't like that idea?).
There is something wonderfully rewarding to me when I find healthy recipes that actually taste good--no, not the recipes you have to eat and "pretend" they are good because they're healthy.  The recipes I've made lately really are delicious, which is so exciting!  This meal is the best because once your casserole is done, so is your entire dinner.  Your meat, starch and veggies are all being cooked at the same, convenient time.  Yay for time-savers!

Serves 4-6

You'll Need:

4-6 sausages, beef or pork
1 lb. potatoes
1/2 pound carrots (I eyeballed this)
1/2 red or green bell pepper
1 very large onion, or 2 small ones
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. oil
black pepper, sea salt to taste
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning*
1/2 c. chicken broth
4 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 fennel bulb**

*I didn't have this, and the dish tasted great without it.
**I hate fennel, but the original recipe called for it.  If you like it, go for it.

Get Busy:

Peel the potatoes and cut into fourths.  Cut onions into thicker wedges.  If including the fennel bulb, remove the base and stalks, and cut into wedges as well.  Slice the bell pepper into strips.  Place everything in a 9x13 pan.  In a big bowl, combine oil, seasoning, minced garlic and chicken broth.  Pour mixture over the veggies and toss them around a bit.  Season the veggies with a generous amount of sea salt (or regular) and pepper.  Cover with foil and bake at 450 for 45 minutes.  This gives you plenty of time to brown the sausages in a pan.  Once lightly browned, cut the sausages in half.
After 45 minutes, the veggies should be fork tender.  If they are, add the sausages to the roasting pan and pour the balsamic vinegar all over.  Place the pan back into the oven, uncovered for another 25-30 minutes.  If you want, after 15 minutes, open the oven, grab a deep spoon and scoop up some of the juices at the bottom and pour over the veggies.  Enjoy!  This is so hearty and good.