Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fresh Salsa

I love the thought of picking food out of a garden, preparing it, and putting it on my table for my family to enjoy.  I have not quite gotten to that point for many reasons, but I do have some fresh herbs and tomato plants growing in pots in my backyard that I love to incorporate into my dishes in the summer.  Since my husband and I are big chips and salsa fans, it only makes sense for me to use my cilantro to make some.  I am not the biggest fan of chopping vegetables, but the payoff here is huge...jarred salsa just can't touch the taste and goodness of the homemade stuff.

  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1/2 cup of red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup zesty Italian dressing
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 T diced jalapeno peppers (more or less to taste, depending on how spicy you like your salsa)
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil corn for approximately 8 minutes.  (If you are familiar with grilling corn and want to take the time to do so, this would be a good recipe to use grilled corn, too.)  Cut the corn of the cob by slicing down the length of the corn a few rows at a time.
  2. Chop all of the veggies and the cilantro.  Gently mix all ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to come together.  We enjoyed it even more the next day.  

Difficulty: Easy to medium (because of the chopping)
Time: about 20 minutes
Source: combined from a few online salsa recipes

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

When I get invited to a summer party or picnic, I always offer to bring a salad or a dessert.  When it comes to feeding many people a yummy dish, I know I can hit it out of the ballpark with those options and a few of my favorite recipes.  I first had this salad at a get-together with coworkers over ten years ago.  After tasting it, I knew I had to have the recipe.  It makes a huge batch of dressing, so I always have some left for my family to enjoy even after preparing a large salad for a party.  This time, I didn't have a party to attend, but was just in the mood for a strawberry salad (and strawberries were buy one get two free!) so I halved the dressing recipe that follows and I still have plenty.  When not making it for a party, I often add some chicken to make it a main course salad that the whole family loves!

  • 1 head of spinach
  • 1 head of leaf lettuce
  • 1-2 quarts of strawberries, sliced
  • Roasted pine nuts (optional)
  • Cooked chicken (optional)
  • Sliced red onions (optional)
Dressing (makes enough for 3 salad recipes above):
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups oil
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp poppy seeds
  1. Blend all dressing ingredients except for poppy seeds in a blender.
  2. Add poppy seeds to mixture and stir by hand.
  3. Serve salad with dressing on the side or mix together immediately before serving.  Depending on the occasion and availability, add pine nuts, chicken, and/or red onions.
This picture was taken of a family dinner; when preparing for a party, I do not use chicken.  I mix the strawberries, salad, and dressing in a large glass bowl to serve.
Difficulty: Relatively easy (you do need to use/clean the blender)
Time: 15 minutes (plus time to cook chicken if you include it)
Source: a former co-worker

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Scapes Pesto

In an attempt to feed my family more fresh vegetables, buy locally, and support farming in our area, I joined a CSA a few years ago. I was overcome with wonderful, organically grown fruits and vegetables, BUT I had no idea what half of the produce was. Then, I had to find recipes. This is one of my favorite recipes for June when garlic scapes come in my CSA. Another reason I love making this recipe is that it makes me feel like I am serving a gourmet dish-it looks like something I would see on the menu at local Italian restaurants.  We look forward to having this every year.


  • 6-7 Garlic scapes, cut into 1/4 slices
  • 1 cup olive oil 
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound angle hair pasta
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (I've used other tomatoes, but grape or cherry tomatoes are easy)
  • 1 small can of black olives
  • 1 small bag of pine nuts (these can be expensive-$32 a pound)

  1. Combine scapes and olive oil in food processor or mini chopper.
  2. Hand blend in cheese.
  3. Prepare angle hair as directed. 
  4. Toast pine nuts for a few minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.
  5. Pour over angle hair.
  6. Garnish with fresh tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and olives.
Difficulty: Medium
Time: under 30 minutes

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kelly's Menu Plan 6/17 - 6/23

I was a bit thrown by the beautiful weather...add to that a home project that is leaving the house a disaster and you get no real meals and no real food in the house.  When I am not planning and cooking, I start feeling out of control.  This does not help my house management or parenting.  So, I am forcing myself to get this done...

Sunday-MOAB Pomegranate Smoothie
The weekends are filled with running around...we start early and finish late.  At least, Father's Day will save me from cooking dinner as John will want to go out! 
Monday-Zesty Pork Chops with fresh green beans
I've had some chops in the deep freeze for a while; time to rotate stock. 
Tuesday-Scalloped Chicken and salad
We haven't posted this yet, but it is one of the easiest things I make.  3-4 chicken breasts, a bag of frozen peas, a box of scalloped potatoes with seasoning packet, and 2 cups of water in the crock pot for 6 hours on low.
Wednesday-Scapes Pesto pasta
My CSA pickup included garlic scapes this week.  This recipe is so easy, yet I feel like a gourmet every time I make it.  
Thursday- Mini Meat Loaves and sauteed zucchini
 In the summer, I rarely want a big meal so the muffin tin size of these meatloaves is perfect.  Planning to make them with salsa and fresh zucchini.
There should be something left since no one is packing lunches anymore...if not, pizza.
I always loved summer blt's growing up!  The garden tomatoes and local lettuce will make them amazing.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Carrot and Couscous Salad

I tend to go with the basics when it comes to side dishes...rice, mashed or baked potatoes, even rice-a-roni or pierogies, and lately, quinoa.  But, sometimes the same-old, same-old gets a bit...well, old.  When I am in the mood for a side dish that's a little different, this one fits the bill perfectly.  It is super easy to make and seems to really hit the spot for spring and summer, as it is nice and light and a little bit sweet.  My kids love it because of the raisins, and I love that they hardly realize that there are shredded carrots in it, as well.  Buying pre-shredded carrots would cut the time down on this recipe quite a bit, but I like mine finely shredded so I take the time to do it myself.  This delicious side is all you need next to some simply prepared chicken, steak, or pork.  It even makes plenty for leftovers...Yum!

  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4-5 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 3 T orange juice
  • 3/4 cup of raisins
  • a sprinkle of cumin 
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Boil water, add couscous.  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix shredded carrots with the juice of one lemon, the orange juice, olive oil, whatever amount of cumin you would like (I just sprinkle the top), and salt and pepper.
  3. Add fluffed (and drained, if necessary) couscous to the carrots along with the raisins.  Toss well and serve.
NOTE:  The original recipe did not have all of the measurements listed; this is the ratio of ingredients that we found we liked, but you may like more or less of something...feel free to experiment!

Click on picture to enlarge
Difficulty: Very easy
Time:  With pre-shredded carrots, this takes about 15-20 minutes.  If you shred the carrots yourself, expect it to take longer, especially if you like them as finely as I do.
Source: Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express, which was a much-appreciated gift to me from one of my best friends

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuscan Chicken and Beans (Slow Cooker)

Talk about easy - for this recipe, you don't even have to thaw the chicken!  As a working mom, I find the slow cooker to be a godsend.  I usually try to make one slow cooker meal a week, though it doesn't always happen.  When it does, though, I generally throw the meal together the night before and put the whole pot in the fridge.  In the morning, I take it out, let some of the chill wear off for about an hour while I get myself and the family ready for work/school, and turn it on just before we walk out of the door.  A while back, I had planned to make this but forgot to prep it the night before.  It took me a minute to chop the pepper, but I was amazed at how quickly I was able to throw it together in the morning (and not run late).  When we got home, I just boiled some pasta and we had an awesome and healthy dinner...with enough for leftovers!  Since then, I have found it easiest to chop the peppers the night before, but that is the only prep necessary.

  • 4-5 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 2 small or 1 large red pepper, chopped (I diced, but that is only because my kids are more likely to eat them if they are cut smaller, feel free to add more pepper)
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (I have used Cannellini Beans and White kidney beans)
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, not drained (I used the kind with garlic)
  • dried basil
  • feta cheese (optional)
  • pasta
  1. Place frozen chicken in slow cooker; sprinkle liberally with basil.
  2. Place chopped peppers on top.
  3. Pour in the beans and tomatoes.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve over pasta.  Top with feta cheese, if desired.  

Note: Consider the size of your slow cooker and how long you will cook this when deciding on how much chicken to use.  I use at least 5 frozen chicken breasts because I have a large Crock Pot and it cooks for the full 8 hours and then turns to "warm" before I get home from work.  Less chicken would end up dried out.

Difficulty: Super easy
Time: 5 minutes or less prep; 6-8 hours cooking