Tag Archives: Family Friendly Recipes

Chicken Pesto Burgers with Tomato Topping

One of my summer choices for a healthy burger is this recipe – what was originally inspired by a recipe called Chicken Burgers with Warm Mushroom Salad. I thought the original burger recipe itself had potential, so I just changed it up a bit and made it even better.   Admittedly, I do my own thing on the salad –  I don’t think her salad recipe does the burger justice.  I followed the notion of involving mushrooms in the side dish, however, since it is in keeping with the Italian influence and compliments the burger well. Wait till you taste these!

I have to give credit where it’s due.  In her 2003 cookbook,  More Low-Carb Meals in Minutes, Linda Gassenheimer collected and created and some wonderful gourmet-inspired recipes that are appropriate for many of the more popular low-carb diets.  It targets diet crazes such as Protein Power, Atkins, and now, South Beach Diet. I refer back to this book frequently when I am in Phase One of the SBD, for something more inspiring than lean chicken and a pile of roasted vegetables.  This is an excellent supplement for the SBD books because it has beautiful pictures and recipes that are a step up from the menus in the original diet plans, and most are quick and easy to make.  Since that book was published, there have been more, updated versions – equally beautiful and with great new recipes, and I intend to purchase this one called Good Carb Meals in Minutes, which is geared for the latter phases of low-carb diets and appropriate for anyone who just wants to eat healthy, delicious meals and not spend an hour in the kitchen doing so.

My modified recipe takes about 30 minutes, so if you’re using a charcoal grill (which I prefer), light it up and get started.  Makes 6 burgers.

GATHER THIS:

  • 1 lb. package of ground chicken
  • 2 turkey sausage links, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons refrigerated store-bought pesto sauce
  • coarse salt & fresh ground pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon each
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 scallions, tops and bottoms trimmed, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dressing from the Grilled Onion & Mushroom Salad with Arugula & Goat Cheese recipe
  • 6 slices Gouda cheese

DO THIS:

In a large bowl, gently mix together the ground chicken, ground sausage, pesto, salt and pepper.  Take care not to overwork the meat, as is it easy to toughen.  Form into 6 patties, about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Place on a plate or platter and refrigerate until ready to grill and prepare side dishes.

Prepare topping:

In a medium bowl, mix together the tomatoes, scallions, and dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook burgers: Heat grill to medium.  Oil the grates well with vegetable oil (chicken burgers stick easily). Grill patties, turning only once, about 6-8 minutes per side.  During the last minute of grilling, top burgers with Gouda slices, put cover on grill down until just melted.   Serve on toasted or grilled whole-wheat sandwich buns and top with tomato mixture.  Phase One dieters, serve without buns or open-face with one slice of toasted whole-grain bread.

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Filed under Grilling, Healthy Recipes, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

BLT in a Bowl: Salad for South Beach Cravers

I’ve been on South Beach Diet Phase One now for 2 weeks.  Having gone through the phases before, I get bored quickly with the recipes in the book.  Today, I was craving a BLT sandwich.  As the man says, “pork fat rules” (Emeril).  So, I concocted this simple salad to satisfy my craving.  Not only did it come together in five minutes – but it completely satisfied my desire for that delicious bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich that mom used to make – sans the bread.  The recipe that follows makes one serving.

GATHER THIS:

  • 4-5 thin slices good quality Canadian bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons reduced-fat Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons 2% milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of coarse salt and fresh black pepper
  • 2 plum tomatoes, large dice
  • 2 cups greens, washed and dried, a choice of mesclun mix, romaine, or Boston lettuce

DO THIS:

Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray (or, alternatively, brush the bottom with a little vegetable oil).  Over medium heat, cook the bacon in the pan until just browned a bit, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a paper plate or paper towel to cool slightly, then chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for your dressing.

Arrange greens in a serving bowl.  Spoon dressing over greens.  Top with chopped tomatoes and Canadian bacon.

Variations: add diced avocado, chopped hard boiled eggs, or cubed cheese (remember though, this adds more fat content and, in my opinion, is not necessary).   I may try a few slices of cucumber or red onion next time; but for a true craving, I wouldn’t want to interfere too much with the integrity of the original BLT.

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Filed under All Other Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Healthy Recipes, Quick & Easy, South Beach Phase 1

Spaghetti Bolognese (Bolognaise) for the Busy Mom

A classic dish, Spaghetti Bolognese was difficult to categorize in this article, because its origin is arguable.  While the concept of this meat sauce originated in Northern Italy in the “Bologna” region, the French would often take food influences from bordering countries and adopt their own recipes, still naming the dish by its inspirational region.  While it’s not exactly “quick”, it’s definitely easy, and much of the time is simmering.

Clearly, the idea of saturating food in wine is French.  I could spend more time and research to ascertain which came first – Bolognaise, the French spelling, or Bolognese, the Italian spelling – but this is a cooking site and not a history blog.  So, to make everyone happy, I’ve put it both categories. And now, on with our favorite family recipe!

This version of a classic recipe began with my mom-in-law, a French native and a fabulous cook.  Made traditionally, it simply was not palatable for my American kids.   I don’t give up easily, and want them to be exposed to all tastes – so they can grow up to be foodie aficionados. 🙂  Here, I’ve reduced the amount of wine and chopped up the veggies finely enough to appeal to the kids, but have not lost the integrity of the sauce.

The most important element of this recipe is that the meat is added AFTER the sauce is almost done – this is the family secret I am sharing with you – and the results are over the top.  Don’t be afraid of not browning the meat first – it will be completely cooked in the sauce.  You will note by the photo, there is no problem getting those kiddos to eat this company-worthy spaghetti recipe.  And if you own an awesome Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus that you can get at my store,  (I use it almost every day!) you can have all your veggies chopped in a minute and have this sauce prepped in no time.  After you have poured yourself a glass of wine to begin cooking, do the following to serve 4-6 people:

GATHER THIS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (plus more for thinning, if needed)
  • 1 cup medium-bodied quality red wine, such as a Cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 15-oz can tomato puree, or diced tomatoes run through the processor
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1/2 pounds good-quality ground beef (preferably organic, but at least sirloin)
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • White shredded cheese of your choice to serve: French like Swiss for this dish, Italians like Parm – you decide!

DO THIS:

In a large sauce pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pot; saute for a few minutes until softened.  Add the mushrooms; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 4-5 minutes.  Add a little salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Add the stock, wine, tomato puree, seasoning, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, follow the directions on the pasta package for cooking the noodles.   I prefer my noodles a minute or two after al dente, as usually recommended – just do them how you like – people are funny about texture.

While the pasta is cooking, begin crumbling tiny pieces of the ground beef into the sauce with your fingers.  Don’t worry about making anything symmetrical; the pieces of beef will shrink with cooking and just be tiny bits of meaty goodness.  Avoid large chunks of meat. This will take a couple of minutes, and will be done about the same time as your pasta, so it works out well.  Stir all the meat into the sauce until it’s incorporated.  Cover the pot; simmer another 10 minutes.  Longer is not necessary and will toughen the meat; thereby defeating the purpose of adding it at the end.

Drain your pasta, and return it to its pan.  Spoon one ladleful of sauce into the noodles. Toss to coat.  To serve, pile noodles into bowls.  Top with additional ladles-full of sauce; top with shredded cheese and minced parsley.  I like it with crusty bread and olive oil for dipping, a green salad, and an abundance of red wine!

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Filed under Budget Friendly, French Recipes, From My Own Kitchen, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites

Steve’s Off-the-Hook Seafood Linguine Alfredo

photo courtesy of T o n y at flickr.com

Need a comfort dish that’s gourmet enough for friends?  Look no further!  Make it as written by my foodie friend Steve, or with a few lightened-up modifications I suggest. You won’t be disappointed by either, and the best part? With all your seafood prepped, throw it together in 12 minutes!

Steve and I have known each other since high school and recently re-connected on Facebook.  He and his wife have a great appreciation for good food and wine – something, of course, near and dear to mine and my husband’s hearts.  While we still haven’t seen each other in person, we talk virtually about cooking; and about dishes that make our mutual network friends salivate.  When he posted about his “artery-clogging” comfort dish of Seafood Linguine Alfredo that he is famous for with family and guests,  I knew we would be foodie friends for a long time!

Steve was kind enough to share this recipe with me, knowing full well I would be reviewing it.  Now, readers… we all know that anything dubbed “alfredo” is not exactly in the diet books.  I figured it wasn’t going to be heart-healthy.  I saved making this one for my birthday treat, because I had plans to go back on to the South Beach Diet soon after making it.   What I wasn’t prepared for, was the proportion of the forbidden foods in his recipe (cream, butter, cheese).  Here is the original recipe, as he shared with me.

GATHER THIS:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Heavy cream (see below)
  • Butter (see below)
  • 1 lb uncooked, peeled & deveined shrimp
  • 1 lb bay scallops
  • 8 oz quality crab meat (no imitation)
  • 8 oz each Parmesan , Romano & Asiago cheeses
  • Salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste
  • 1 lb. linguine noodles

DO THIS:

Cook the linguine noodles per package instructions and to your desired tenderness.  As your noodles are boiling,  cook your shrimp over medium heat in a stick of butter (he uses a wok for this – brilliant!) and 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, basil, and oregano.  When just about cooked, remove shrimp with slotted spoon into a medium bowl; set aside. Add again more butter, olive oil and seasonings.

Cook the bay scallops; when done, remove with slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the shrimp.  To pan or skillet –  again add another stick of butter, more olive oil and seasonings. Drain noodles.  Return noodles to pot, add in the cooked shrimp and scallops from the bowl.  Pour in the butter mixture, pour in the crab meat, pour in the heavy cream ( half a pint or so ).  Then, pour in all three grated cheeses, stir; add milk or cream until you have the right consistency. Serve immediately.

Steve and reader friends… this is a recipe for a bona fide food coma! While I have a true appreciation for all great food, wine, and the glory of  butter and cream – (remember, I’m married to a Frenchman) – I simply could not handle this recipe exactly the way in which he intended – others might.   The recipe itself is fantastic.  I just needed to lighten it up a bit to accommodate our own tastes.

I really wanted to remain loyal to the integrity of the recipe, to honor Steve’s claims that it is the best of the best.  So, I kept an open mind, even as I was preparing it.  I thought, “if I can fathom that an extra stick of butter will make this better, I will keep it in”.   For me, it just wasn’t necessary.  This recipe was decadent, even with a significant reduction in the amount of butter and cream.

My proportions were almost the same, with the exception of the butter and oil: I simply reduced the amount of each stick of butter by two-thirds (using approximately 3-4 tablespoons of butter in each panful), and only 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.  I also eliminated the “or so..” option of the heavy cream.  I used exactly one half-pint (small container) of heavy cream, and thinned with chicken stock a bit to acquire the desired saucy consistency.   The only other thing to note, is that since he didn’t specify the amount of (assumed) dried herbs to use, I used about 1/4 teaspoon of Italian seasoning blend for each batch of seafood that I sautéed.  Steve, if I did not get this right – I can edit!  The beauty of blogging.

So what’s the rating? This dish was delicious, no question.   Will I make it again?  Most definitely.  Especially because of the ease with which it came together.   Will I change anything? Yes, as follows:

  1. Reduce butter amounts as suggested above.
  2. Incorporate 1/4 cup white wine or 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice  into last step of tossing ingredients together to add a little brightness and thin the heaviness a bit.  Then I would garnish with a few thinly sliced lemons – it needs some color.  That being said, the general rule in presenting is that you shouldn’t garnish with an ingredient that hasn’t been used in the dish.
  3. Use sea scallops,  cartilage removed, cut into quarters or halves.  Sea scallops are more tender, sweeter – in general, a finer shellfish (albiet, more expensive). If you’re going to go all out with butter and cream, you may as well get the sea scallops…
  4. Reduce the amount of dried herbs used and add 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil in the last step. Garnish at the end with a sprig of basil for color.
  5. Use whole-wheat linguine pasta.  It is just as delicious, especially with this kind of recipe; and it will offset the less healthy ingredients giving you some nutritional value.
  6. Add some fresh chopped spinach to the last step – (Steve does this too) – the pasta will be hot enough to wilt the spinach and you will get a great nutritional addition to your meal.

All of my own personal recommendations aside,  Steve knows a good recipe – and that quality seafood is what it’s all about.  Regardless of how much cream or butter you use, the key to a great recipe is fresh ingredients. If you plan on going all out on a wonderful recipe such as this, don’t skimp by using imitation crabmeat or pre-cooked shrimp (the ultimate sin)!  Enjoy this with a nice, light mesclun salad of greens with a light vinaigrette and you won’t feel quite as guilty…  and to drink? I like a nice citrusy chardonnay or a young red pinot noir with this.

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Filed under Italian-inspired, Quick & Easy

Fabulous Meatloaf with Italian Cheese & Mushrooms

What, you say?  “Fabulous” and “Meatloaf” seemingly don’t belong in the same title.  Once you try this, you’ll change your mind.  It’s EASY, but actually on my list of company-worthy – one I intend to serve to French guests that are expected in July. It’s a wonderful blend of  U.S. meets Euro.  My camera failed me on this one, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it was nice to look at, too.  Not counting the 45 minute cooking time – thrown together in a few minutes.

The original recipe was this:  Turkey Meatloaf with Fontina and Mushrooms .  Martha’s people, as usual, rocking my culinary interests.  But for me, I needed to make it a bit more kid-friendly, and the ingredients a little more budget-friendly and mainstream. The result was even better!

Gather This:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 pound white button or cremini mushrooms, chopped fine so the kiddos don’t recognize it
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 2 small leeks, white and light-green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, washed, dried
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, such as mozzarella, provolone, romano, parmesan, asiago)
    • 1 slice day-old bread, crumbled into coarse crumbs (no canister crumbs here!)
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
    • 1 1/2 pounds ground meat, I use a combination of pork and beef.  If you use turkey, make sure it’s the higher fat ground turkey to get the best flavor and proper texture.

    Do This:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a large mixing bowl.
    2. Return skillet to medium-low and add another tablespoon oil.  Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with mushrooms and let cool.
    3. Add cheese, bread, egg, and sage to bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in ground meats, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a ceramic or glass casserole (I use one that’s about 8×11), use your hands to form the mixture into a 10-inch loaf. Bake until cooked through, about 45-50 minutes. Let rest , loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes before serving. Drain off any fat and slice in 1/2 inch portions.

    Serve this the traditional way – with green beans and mashers, but when company comes (and yes! I definitely serve this meatloaf to company) I kick up the green beans and do French haricots (tiny whole green beans) and toss them with butter, lemon zest, pine nuts, and lots of salt and pepper – and then I drizzle the mashed potatoes with a little truffle oil.   You won’t need gravy, because the meatloaf is so flavorful and moist.  But if you must do anything, use just a light red-wine based juice deglaze type sauce – a heavy beef gravy would just destroy it.  You could possibly use a very light tomato sauce because it would be in keeping with the Italian influence of the dish.  But unless your guests are under 10, NO KETCHUP ALLOWED!

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    Filed under Budget Friendly, From My Own Kitchen, Italian-inspired, Kids Favorites, Quick & Easy

    Tilapia Tacos with Cilantro Slaw

    Tasty, impressive,  healthy, budget-worthy, kid-friendly!  I gathered ideas from a few different recipes and made it into my own.  Every time I make it, yums and ahs abound.  Next time your family is screaming for tacos – see what happens with this.

    GATHER THIS:

    • 1-3/4 pounds tilapia, about 4 fillets, cut into 2″x1/2″ pieces
    • 1 cup fresh bread, panko, or cracker crumbs, or a combination (I used 10 saltine crackers and 2 pieces of whole wheat bread this time)
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1 teaspoon creole or taco seasoning (I like Emeril’s Essence)
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
    • 1/4 cup light sour cream (Daisy is the best)
    • juice of one small lime (fresh only please!)
    • 2 teaspoons white sugar, or sugar substitute – more or less to taste
    • 3 cups loosely packed shredded coleslaw, romaine, iceberg,  or a mix of any of these
    • 4 scallions, tops removed, sliced 1/4″ diagonally
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    • Warm corn tortillas, about 8 (see note below)

    DO THIS:

    Place the breadcrumb/saltine mixture in a shallow dish.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, water, and taco seasoning.   Pat the tilapia pieces dry with a paper towel, and then season them with salt and pepper.  Working with a few pieces at a time, first dip the fish in the egg, letting the excess drip off; then coat the fish pieces well with the breadcrumb mixture.  Place the coated pieces on a clean plate. Repeat until all the fish is coated.

    Try and use one hand for dipping the fish in the egg mixture and the other for the bread; this will prevent a gooey mess on your fingers (or the fish pieces). I read this over and over on all the recipes ever done with breading, but inevitably, I wind up with goo somehow!  One day I will master this coordinated effort…

    Now heat two tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot enough to sizzle from a drop of water, add half of the coated fish pieces to the skillet.  Fry the fish pieces for about two minutes on each side, until golden and crispy.  Transfer the cooked fish to a warm plate lined with paper towels.  Cover loosely with foil while you fry the second batch.  Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, if needed, and repeat the process with the remaining fish pieces.

    While the fish is cooking, you can be preparing the slaw topping:

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the coleslaw, green onions, and cilantro.

    To serve, assemble tacos with two or three pieces of fish in a warm corn tortilla, topped with a tablespoon or two of the slaw topping.   On the side I always serve black beans with some grated Mexican cheese called cotija, but crumbled parmesan or romano works equally well.  And, if you want the kiddies on board (my kids love the fish tacos, one of them without the slaw..) serve with refried beans topped with shredded cheddar.  A great way to get them to eat fish that is not processed!

    TORTILLAS: Two ways to warm!

    For over-the-top excellent taste and texture, use your non-stick skillet with a tiny bit of oil to toast the tortillas – then stack them in tin foil to keep them warm for serving.  This takes a little time, but is so much better than the alternative!  Seriously, you made these great fish tacos, don’t shortcut the wrapping.

    But, if you’ve absolutely had it and time has run out –  the alternative is:

    Wrap about 8-10 corn tortillas in damp paper towels; heat in microwave for 20 seconds.  With this step, I could put this recipe on the “quick and easy” category or tag list, but I chose not to, if you really want it to be great spend the extra five or ten minutes!

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    Filed under Budget Friendly, From My Own Kitchen, Healthy Recipes, Kids Favorites, Mexican-inspired