Tag Archives: easy

Herbed Salmon with Asparagus and Brown Rice

11 Mar

We just made a super delicious Sunday lunch. Pretty fancy, but it wasn’t much work. This would make a great meal for dinner guests.

We got a frozen salmon fillet from Trader Joe’s and thawed it out. The BF laid it on a baking sheet while I put together the herb blend. I was going for a similar idea as the Herb-Crusted Pork I posted a while back. In a small bowl, I mixed up some toasted chopped almondsdried rosemarydried thyme, and some sage. (Sorry I don’t have exact measurements here, I was just making it up as I went.) I added enough olive oil to give it a somewhat paste-like consistency. Then I spread it evenly on top of the fish. If it looks like it’s not enough, just make a little more.

Fish Close-Up

I set the whole pan in the fridge until we were ready for lunch. Then the BF popped it in the oven, and we baked it on 400 F for about 12-15 minutes. He covered it in foil while it baked so it would stay moist. If you like it flakier, you may opt to go without the foil, or to take the foil off in the last few minutes.

He also prepared a tray of asparagus seasoned with a lemon and garlic spice blend, and baked it right alongside the fish. That’s what made it so easy – they baked at the same temperature for the same amount of time, so only one thing to keep track of.

Asparagus

We served our fish and asparagus with brown rice. A delicious and healthy meal. Lunch is served!

Lunch

Dee Dee’s Broccoli Casserole

8 May

My mom is affectionately known as Aunt Dee Dee or just Dee Dee to all of her nieces and nephews. She is the fun, crazy aunt who not only lets you throw a ball in the house, but is often the one to initiate and participate in said indoors throwing game. I was jealous of my cousins as a teenager because at that age, I thought my mom was a way cooler aunt than mom. But now I have a little more perspective (and a little less attitude), and I more remember all the fun and crazy projects my mom cooked up over the years, which now loom much larger than the fights and arguments we were having when I was in high school. For example, my Double Dare birthday party was the coolest party of the 4th grade, complete with pie-throwing contests, tricycle races, and a relay race that involved massive amounts of butter, popcorn, Jell-o, and a Slip ‘N’ Slide.

My mom is also a pretty amazing chef, and it’s humbling to think back over the years at how she taught herself new skills in the kitchen. When my siblings were very young (before I was around) and our family didn’t have a lot of money, they ate a lot of casseroles, soups, and one-pot meals. They were classic, homey meals that were cheap and easy to put together, perfect for a mom working crazy hours with 2 small kids. But by the time I came along, my parents were a little more settled. My mom left work to stay at home with us, and our meals became more complex, fresh, and nutritious. By the time my little sisters were in the picture, the family was eating ethnic foods like Indian and Japanese, and our meals had a lot more fresh produce and a lot less cream of mushroom soup.

I think this trend is very interesting from a sociological standpoint, but I also think that from a personal view, I became very used to learning about food and trying new things. Now my mom and I swap ideas for new foods, new recipes, and how to use the massive quantities of rosemary she gets from the rosemary bush in her backyard big enough to hide two toddlers in (speaking from experience). I regularly call her for advice (“Mom, 10 people are showing up for dinner in 20 minutes, and I ran out of ___. What should I do!?” or “Mom, this chicken I just cooked is, like, gray… If I eat it, will it kill me?”), and I give her tips I pick up from health food nuts and farmers’ markets in my more liberal small town. My goal one day is to be able to take a quick glance into a pantry or refrigerator and put together a dinner plan, just like I’ve seen her do a million times. I’m not that comfortable or familiar yet with food, ingredients, and recipes, but I think I’m getting there.

When I was staring at the broccoli – this month’s seasonal produce – and trying to figure out what to do with it, I could not stop thinking about broccoli casserole. This is a huge throwback dish, something my mom made relatively regularly when I was a kid. I loved it so much, I think I even requested it as part of my birthday dinner one year. But as I explained above, our family has trended over time toward more nutritious foods, so this is a dish that my mom no longer makes or eats. It’s very unhealthy, especially since I only want it if she agrees to my request for extra cheese. Every year at Thanksgiving she proposes leaving it out, and every year my siblings, cousins, and I demand that we have it. It’s a Thanksgiving staple that I generally only have once a year. So she agrees to its presence at our Thanksgiving table, but one of us has to make it ourselves. It’s a very simple recipe that can be made in 15 minutes or less. So here it is… Dee Dee’s Broccoli Casserole.

Start with 1 bag frozen broccoli. Thaw it completely (on the counter or in the microwave) and chop it into bite-sized pieces. Spread it in the bottom of a glass casserole dish. Top with a layer of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Broccoli and cheeseSpread a layer of cream of mushroom soup over top the cheese.

Cream of Mushroom SoupAnd now spread another layer of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese. Cover with plastic wrap, cut a slit in the center, and cook it in the microwave on high for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the broccoli is cooked.

More CheeseI hadn’t made this in a long time, but I knew the cheese was the most important part, so I just kept adding some. I wasn’t sure how much was necessary. When I pulled it out of the microwave, it really just looked like a dish of cheese with a few broccoli bumps. I realized I went a little overboard, but obviously it was good because I tried to take a picture a few minutes later, but people were already digging in!

Broccoli Casserole

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Spinach and Salmon Salad

24 Apr

On Friday, the BF and I had the day off, and we took a little time to try to throw together a nice lunch. We wanted something light and healthy because we were anticipating a weekend’s worth of delicious, fatty food, what with Betsy Bundt‘s wedding on Saturday (don’t fret… I’ll have more cupcake and decorating gossip on that later) and Sunday supper with the family. So we hopped on our bikes and rode to Trader Joe’s to pick up some veggies.

Upon our return, the BF fired up the George Foreman and seasoned the salmon with a dusting of chili powder while I assembled the salad. Actually, the truth is, he pretty much did all of it while I moped around the kitchen in a post-exercise, hunger-induced daze. I did, however, manage to make us each a fruit and yogurt parfait for dessert, and then consume every last bit of mine while he made lunch.

In our salad, we had a bed of organic spinach (a seasonal ingredient available in North Carolina March through December!), carrots, walnuts, goat cheese, and croutons. I found that if you scrape the goat cheese with a fork instead of try to cut it with a knife, then nice little crumbs will fall evenly all over the salad, instead of clumping together.

After the BF finished mastering the electric grill (he suggests medium-low heat, about 4-5 minutes on each side), we added a salmon fillet right on top. Carrots + salmon… weird!? But hey, there are no rules in this kitchen. I drizzled mine with some Italian dressing and the BF chose a light cucumber ranch dressing. It was super delicioso!

"Parfaits got layers! Everybody loves parfaits!" Too old? Too lame? Yes.

As I said, for dessert we had a yogurt and fruit parfait, though I had already eaten mine by this point. I mixed 1 part nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt and 1 part store-bought cream cheese fruit dip (to sweeten it a bit — this is dessert, after all) in a small bowl. I filled the bottom of these cute little glasses with grapes, then a spoonful of my yogurt mixture, then blueberries, then yogurt, then mandarin oranges. A small dollop of yogurt on top made it camera-ready.

Healthy Lunch!

How Sue Sees It:

  • I know this recipe is a bit of a scam, since most salad recipes are lame. I mean, does anyone really need a recipe to make a salad? Put vegetables on a plate and top it with salmon. There, you’re done.
  • If you don’t want to buy the fruit dip, you can easily mix your own — my mom, Susie Senior, makes a great one with one part marshmallow creme/fluff and one part strawberry cream cheese. So your overall mixture would be one part marshmallow fluff, one part cream cheese (choose your flavor), and two parts yogurt.

Pork Chops with Mushroom Sauce

7 Mar

I have no idea why I’m posting so much pork on this blog. I really don’t eat much pork at all, and actually, I’ve been trying to cut down my overall meat consumption lately. Maybe that’s why these end up looking good enough to take pictures of. My favorite part of this dish is the mushroom sauce, so feel free to search for things other than pork to smother. This recipe originally came from Rachael Ray, who just loves to smother fat with fat, so it’s pretty easy, but no claims here about being healthy.

I preheated a large skillet with some extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. I added a dash of salt and pepper to each side of the pork chop and then added it to the pan. I cooked it for about 6-7 minutes, then flipped it to the other side and cooked it for another 6-7 minutes. I removed the pork chop to a temporary plate and tented some foil over it to keep the heat in. Back to the skillet: I turned the skillet down to medium-low and added 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1/2 pound sliced white mushrooms, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme. I let that saute for 3 or 4 minutes and then added a dash of salt and pepper. I also added about 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and then cooked for about a minute longer. Then I whisked in 1/3 cup dry white wine, 1 cup chicken broth, and 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard. I let it simmer until most of the liquid was absorbed and it had a thick, creamy texture. I served it with a side of baked sweet potato and steamed green beans. As Rachael says, “Yum-o!”

How Sue Sees It:
– Seriously, this mushroom sauce is amazing. And it gives me something to do with all the leftover mushrooms I end up having after I buy some for salad.
– Be flexible. Don’t have mustard? Leave it out. I doubt you’ll notice.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Cake

20 Feb

This is my favorite cake ever. It has 3 different kinds of chocolate. And it may have more, depending on the variation you choose to make — I’ve had up to 5 before! And this cake is always a crowd pleaser, so if I’m heading somewhere new and not sure what people will appreciate, this is my go-to recipe. I’m a little worried about posting this one because it’s actually only semi-homemade, and I don’t want people to think I’m a slacker. But oh well — all my secrets shall be revealed here sooner or later. The pictures for this one are awesome, so I’m including quite a few more than usual. Compliments to the BF/amateur photographer. So feast your eyes, and I’ll go feast my belly.

I start off by moving the rack to the middle of the oven, pre-heating it to 350 F, and buttering a bundt pan. I like using a bundt for this particular cake for a few reasons: One, because it looks fancier without any extra effort. Two, it has a drizzle instead of a full icing, and I think that looks nicer on a bundt. And three, it’s pretty rich, and it’s easier to cut a bundt cake into smaller, neater slices than it is a round or sheet cake.

So after the prep, I dump almost all the ingredients rather unceremoniously into a large mixing bowl: 1 box devils food cake, 1 package chocolate instant pudding mix, 4 eggs, 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1/2 cup vegetable oil.

Batter IngredientsI blend it with a hand-mixer on medium-low for 2-3 minutes. Then I fold in  1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, and once it’s well-mixed, pour it evenly into the bundt pan.

Mixing the BatterChips!Batter in the pan

I bake it for 45-50 minutes. The cake slightly pulls away from the sides of the pan, and it should pass the toothpick test. I let it cool it on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then remove it from the pan. If you don’t cool it long enough, it’s more likely to crack when you try to remove it. And if you’re having a hard time getting it to pop out of the pan, take a long wooden skewer and run it around the edge of the cake before flipping it over. This will loosen it up without cutting your cake or scratching your pan.

Plain cake
Once it’s completely cool, I add the ganache-y chocolate topping — the same one I put on top of the Banana Butterscotch-Chocolate Cake. The rule for this topping is a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to butter. So I melt about 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter in 30-second intervals, stirring well in between. While it’s still warm and runny, I drizzle in back and forth over top the cake. As it cools, it will firm up but not harden.

DrizzleChocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cake

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I just have to say it again: seriously, this is the best cake ever. The other reason I love this cake is because it’s sooo easy. There aren’t any silly rules about beating in eggs one at a time or anything like that. And aside from the sort-of long cooking time, it’s really quick and easy to throw together. Actually, I try to keep the ingredients for this on hand at all times in case I need a last-minute cake.

I also like that this cake is so versatile and easy to make your own. I’ve substituted the semisweet chips for milk chocolate chips. Once I did half semisweet and half white chocolate chips. You could get even more wild and crazy and use butterscotch or peanut butter chips, or maybe a caramel topping. I haven’t tried those yet, so if you do, let me know how it goes.

If you’re worried about it, it’s okay to swap light sour cream for regular sour cream. But if you’re honestly counting calories, that seems like a waste of time when it comes to this cake. I haven’t tried the whole swap your oil for applesauce thing, so I don’t know how that would work out with this particular recipe. If you try it, let me know!

Yum

Triple Chocolate Cake

Cake:

1 box devils foods cake mix
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Topping:

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Add all the cake ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Blend with a hand-mixer on medium-low for 2-3 minutes. Fold in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the sides spring away from the edges of the pan. Let cool for about 20 minutes before inverting onto a platter. Top with chocolate ganache topping.

For topping, place 1/2 cup chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Chop butter into rough chunks and add to bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring well in between each interval. Do not over-cook. Once thoroughly melted without any chunks, pour over top the cooled bundt cake. Let cool.

 

6/7/8 Layer Magic Bars

1 Feb

Seven-layer bars are not anything new or exciting, but I had been craving these “magic bars” for days. I have no idea why — I haven’t had a seven-layer bar in years. But I pulled out my bar pan, and two trips to the grocery store later (I forgot stuff), I set to work on the bars. This is a classic recipe and can be found anywhere online or even on the back of a can of sweetened condensed milk. I probably know this one of the top off my head now, it’s so easy.

Graham Cracker & Butter Mixture
Once it was completely mixed, I pressed a small amount into each  of the 12 cups of the bar pan, pressing flat to make a solid crumb layer along the bottom.

Graham Cracker Crumb Layer
Then I set about filling up the layers. What I like about using the bar pan is that you can change up the ingredients. Someone doesn’t like nuts? Leave out the nuts on one row. No coconut? Leave out the coconut. What I don’t like about using the bar pan is that it takes more time, it’s difficult to spread the layers evenly, and it can be hard to remove the bars too. So if you want to use a normal baking pan and cut them into squares, that’s cool too.

Bar Layers
I managed to pry out a few bars and keep them whole, and they look delicious. (All the bars that I broke I dumped into a bowl and I just eat them with a fork. Talk about guilty pleasure.)

Magic Bars
I picked out the three best-looking bars and packaged them in a gift bag with a ribbon. Adorbs!

Magic Bars Gift Bag

I consider these true seven-layer bars because they include seven layers: graham cracker crust, white chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, walnuts, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. Other recipes do not include the white chocolate chips, but still call it seven layers by counting the butter that’s mixed into the graham cracker crust as a layer. And I call b.s. on that.

Be careful not to add in too much sweetened condensed milk, which is really easy to do in the small bar cups. I definitely should have used a spoon to drop in a small amount rather than being impatient and trying to pour it in. Some of my bars ended up with WAY too much sweetened condensed milk — these looked funny, and they were the ones that wouldn’t come out of the pan in one piece. Check out this picture — the bars in the front of the shot are nearly overflowing with sweetened condensed milk. Too much!Too Much!And next time I’ll probably add in the coconut at the end, after I spoon in the sweetened condensed milk. The coconut got kind of mushed under the weight of the milk, and it looks better when the coconut is fluffier.

Enjoy!

6/7/8 Layer Magic Bars

1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded coconut
1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Mix the graham cracker crumbs and butter together. Press into the bottom of a bar pan or a 9×9 baking dish.

Layer on the chips and nuts evenly. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk. Spread the coconut evenly over top.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.

Let cool completely, and then carefully cut into squares and remove from pan.

Coconut Curry Chicken

29 Jan

Woo! Another dinner meal! Not baking, true, but a really beautiful dish that’s not too spicy and easy enough for a weeknight. This recipe, which I adapted from a recipe on allrecipes.com, served 2 — me and the BF. We generally don’t eat very much, so feel free to increase the ingredients here if you’re an average-to-big eater.

I started off by dicing up a couple chicken breasts and setting them aside. In a medium bowl, I mixed together 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1 teaspoon curry powder. Basically, just add in whatever you have in your spice rack. If you’re missing one or two of these things, don’t worry, just go with what you have. I also added in a dash of salt and a dash of pepper. I threw the chicken into the spice bowl and tossed it around until all the pieces were well-coated.

I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and then browned the chicken. Once it was brown, but not fully cooked, I moved the pieces to the outside of the pan and added in 1/2 sliced onion, 1/4 sliced green bell pepper, 1/4 sliced yellow bell pepper, 1/4 sliced red bell pepper and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. (The onions and peppers were julienne cut. They were frozen from the leftovers of another dinner. It is not necessary to have different colored bell peppers — they all taste the same. So unless you have leftovers or plan on saving the leftovers from this recipe, just pick one bell pepper and go with it.) I cooked those till the onions became almost clear. Then I dumped in 1 can of diced tomatoes — you can choose whatever variety you like, but I usually get the ones that already have flavors roasted into them, like the one with basil, garlic, and oregano. I stirred everything up, turned the heat down to a medium-low simmer, and cooked everything for another 6-8 minutes. Then I stirred in 1/2 (8 oz) can of coconut milk. Another minute to heat it through, and I was ready to serve!

Cookin' Curry
I served it up on top of bowls of jasmine rice and served naan on the side. (If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s where you live, get your frozen garlic naan from there. It’s easy, cheap, and delicious. I guess if you’re crazy, you could find a recipe online and make it yourself.)

Dinner Is Served

How Sue Sees It:
– I personally thought this was a little bland, but super-flavorful foods tend to be my favorite, like Indian curries, so I think I’m just picky. The BF liked this pretty well.
– You can use regular or light coconut milk, whichever you prefer. Just be sure to shake it up before you open the can.
– Next time I will probably experiment with more healthful ingredients, like chickpeas, eggplant, cauliflower, green beans, etc.

Cream Cheese Frosting

18 Dec

I think I got my love of cream cheese frosting from my mom. After you make this once, you will put it on everything: carrot cake, red velvet cake, chocolate cake, cookies, anything. It’s that amazing – super easy, quick, and deeelish.

I combined 2 packages of softened cream cheese and 1 stick of softened butter (1/2 cup), and I blended them with the hand mixer till it got creamy. Then I mixed in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and then gradually stirred in 2 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar.

Cream Cheese Icing

Here’s a little trick though: I actually don’t worry about sifting the sugar. It takes a long time, and I get bored easily. Instead I just dump it right in the bowl and blend it with the hand mixer for a little bit longer. The extra blending makes sure there’s no sugar lumps, but also I actually prefer it that way because it gives it a slightly lighter, whipped texture instead of so heavy and creamy.

Cream Cheese Icing

What’s the best thing you’ve put cream cheese frosting on? I’d have to go with my carrot cake. Yum!

Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe

16 Dec

There are a million sugar cookie recipes out there, and it’s a challenge to find the recipe that will live up to everything you need in a cookie: doughy enough to work with, firm enough to hold cutout shapes, and — most important — delicious! So here it is: Betsy and I tried this recipe out last weekend and it was perfect. (The original recipe came from Better Homes & Gardens.)

Mixing the Dough

In a large bowl, beat 2/3 cup butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Beat until combined. Then add 1 egg, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix that in. Beat in as much of the 2 cups of all-purpose flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in any remaining flour.

Dough Pile

Divide the dough in half, seal it in a large plastic zip bag, and chill it in the freezer until it’s easy to handle — about 20 minutes.

Dough Ball

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Flour the surface your working on (Betsy and I just flour the counter itself and roll the dough out there), and roll half the dough out at a time until it is 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into shapes of your choice and place them on a cookie sheet.

Bake until the edges are lightly browned. You’ll have to guess on the time, depending on how big your cookie cutouts are. If they are average — about 2 1/2 inches wide — it will take probably 7-10 minutes. Cool them completely on a wire rack. Frost them with royal icing and decorate with sprinkles and candies.

Plain Snowflake CookiesSnowflake Cookies

Royal Icing

15 Dec

Royal icing is that icing on top of sugar cookies that hardens to where it won’t smudge at all. But it’s great because it’s not like a plastic texture — it’s still chewable and not crunchy. It’s great to use for decorating and gifting cookies because as long as you give it a day to harden, nothing will harm your decorations. You can also use it as a glue to attach decorations.

Here’s a basic recipe for you:

In a medium bowl, we added 1 large egg white (Betsy separated it for me — I ain’t got skills like that). I added 1/4 tsp cream of tartar (look for it on the spice aisle). After Betsy sifted 1 cup confectioners sugar, I added a little at a time, beating the mixture with a hand mixer until it formed soft peaks.

The icing dries quickly once it comes into contact with air, so you really should use it immediately. If you can’t, cover it with a wet cloth and leave it on the counter (not the fridge) until you’re ready to use it. It will last up to 12 hours this way.

You can add food coloring to it to make whatever color you want. If you want it to be white, I definitely suggest adding whitening cream because when it’s plain, it’s a little too grossly cream-colored to make nice cookies. Just don’t add to much or it might get too watery and drip off your cookies.

Snowflake cookie with royal icing and blue sugar pearls

Happy decorating!

P.S. If raw eggs freak you out, there are a million other royal icing recipes on the web that use meringue powder and water instead. Just Google search it and you’ll find one!