Savory Polenta


Did you ever see a recipe, and that one led you to another one, then another one, and… well, you get the point. I received a recipe over the weekend for an appetizer with polenta rounds that looked absolutely delicious, and planned on making it, then thought I should probably wait until I actually need to make some hors d’oeuvres. So, I continued looking online for different types of recipes which contained polenta and came across one from Rachael Ray, that got tremendous reviews and looked scrumptious, which led me to a recipe from Alton Brown. I definitely plan on trying Rachael’s soon, but made Alton’s polenta side dish, with a few modifications, to go with some leftover rib-eye I had in the fridge. This was my first time making and trying polenta, so wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I really liked it!! This also pairs very well with fish or chicken.

Polenta with Rib-Eye and Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for grilling or sautéing the polenta, if desired
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup milk (I prefer skim) + additional to thin, if desired
  • 1/2 cup coarse ground cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 cup Sharp Cheddar, grated

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the red onion and salt, and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.
  4. Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock or broth, bring to a boil.
  5. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking.
  6. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and cook for approx. 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent lumps.
  7. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from heat and add the butter and pepper.
  8. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan and Cheddar.
  9. Season with additional salt, according to taste.
  10. If you want the polenta creamier, you can thin with a little cream or milk to get desired consistency. Otherwise, serve as is, or pour the polenta into a cake pan lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Once set, turn the polenta out onto a cutting board and cut into squares, rounds, or triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and saute in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, or grill.

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3 Easy Methods for Baking a Potato


This post might be elementary to a lot of you, but there was a time when I wasn’t entirely sure how to make a baked potato to achieve the results I wanted (crispy skins). I love a good baked potato, and while my favorite is a twice baked all loaded up with cheese, bacon, chives and sour cream, I rarely eat it that way merely because of all the calories. But, I will indulge from time to time. So, normally, I just add a little butter, salt & pepper. Listed below are three ways to make them.

Regardless of which method you choose, it’s essential to remember to wash the potatoes and prick them many times with a fork. If you forget, you may have a little explosion in your oven or microwave.

Front: Regular, baked potatoes. Back: Twice baked.
  1. Oven-Baked Potatoes: Pre-heat the oven to 425°F. Rub the potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and prick them with the tines of a fork. Lay them directly on the oven rack or place them on a baking sheet, and cook for 45-60 minutes, until their skin is crispy and sticking one with a fork meets no resistance. End Result – crispy potato skins.
  2. Potatoes Wrapped in Foil: Follow the same directions as for oven-roasted potatoes, but wrap the potatoes in foil before cooking. End Result – a softer skin and the potatoes stay warm in their foil if you’re not eating right away.
  3. Microwaved Potatoes: Follow the same direction as for oven-roasted potatoes, but  place all the potatoes on a microwave-safe dish and microwave at full power for five minutes. Turn them over and microwave for another 3-5 minutes. If still hard in the middle, microwave in additional 1-minute bursts until cooked through. End Result – super-fast cooking time with soft skins.

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Herbs de Provence Roasted Vegetables


I’m a huge fan of veggies, and always looking for new ways to prepare them. Just recently, I made a ginormous salad to bring to a party and had a ton of leftover vegetables. My first thought was to simply make a salad, but then I decided that cooking them in some fashion was more appealing. Obviously with all of the cooking/baking I do, I have a pantry-full of herbs and spices, so I took a look to see which ones I wanted to use, and ran across my Herbs de Provence, containing rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil, sage and lavender. If you haven’t tried them, I highly recommend you do! This recipe is super easy, healthy, delicious and can be varied to suit your taste or what you have on hand. If you’re not a balsamic fan, you can substitute lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • Approximately 12 cups vegetables, chopped * (I used broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, peeled garlic cloves, red potatoes, cucumber and grape tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tsp. Herbs de Provence
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the vegetables, set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper.
  4. Toss together with the veggies to coat well.
  5. Lightly grease a large roasting pan with cooking spray and spread evenly, in a single layer.
  6. Roast for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.

* I chopped the potatoes and carrots smaller so they wouldn’t require additional cooking time. However, if using larger pieces of root veggies, you can roast them first in the oven for a few minutes to ensure even cooking.

Before going into the oven

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Easy & Delicious Baked Beans


The 4th of July is quickly approaching (yay), and I am thinking of all of the wonderful traditional dishes associated with this holiday as my department at work is having a little potluck lunch to celebrate (my mouth is already salivating).  Clearly, I have long list of possibilities of what I can bring, but one of my favorite sides comes to mind… baked beans. When I went to look for my recipe on here, I was shocked to find that I did not post it previously. My bad! So… here it is!

This recipe calls for bacon, but I believe it would be just as tasty if you choose to omit it.

Ingredients

  • 8 strips of bacon, thick cut
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans of Bush’s baked beans w/bacon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 small Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in microwave, checking after each minute, so it’s still soft. Don’t let it get crisp.
  2. Cut into small, bite-size pieces, set aside.
  3. Put the remaining ingredients in a crock pot. *
  4. Add the bacon and mix.
  5. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

* This can also be prepared in the oven at 350 for 1 hour in a 3-quart baking dish.

Serves 10

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Spicy Edamame


I’m a HUGE fan of sushi, and always have to order edamame as a starter whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant. One of my favorite sushi restaurants is Sashi in Manhattan Beach, which is where I went for my birthday dinner last year. Naturally, we had to get an order of their edamame, which was not your run-of-the-mill edamame, as it’s served 2 ways; with Indian spices and also, sea salt. The Indian-spiced batch was incredibly tasty, and since that time, I wanted to recreate something similar at home. I came across this spicy edamame recipe using Japanese 7 spice, and can’t begin to tell you how many batches of it I’ve made. Actually, I’m making some more right now! Japanese 7 spice, or Shichimi Togarashi in Japanese, is a blend of spices that contains red chili, seaweed, sansho pepper, orange peel, poppy seeds and white and black sesame seeds. It’s a popular table condiment in Japan, where it’s used to add heat and flavor to lots of different dishes. This is the original recipe I found, but will make a notation as to how I like to prepare it. I also like to dip the edamame in a spicy Japanese mayo, so I’ll include a link to that recipe as well.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb edamame
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp Japanese 7 spice
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Japanese spicy mayo

Directions

  1. Cook edamame according to package directions & drain. (I like to add a little garlic and ginger powder to the water.)
  2. Place edamame in a large bowl. Add oil and toss to coat, adding more if needed.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients & mix together well.

For my version of this recipe, I eliminate the cayenne pepper and garlic, and add just a little bit of sugar. I love the combo of sweet & spicy.

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Creamy Cheese Grits


If you’re from the South, then you know ALL about grits. If you’re not familiar with them, they are a staple in every Southerner’s kitchen and can be found on practically every restaurant menu in the Southern states. They mainly consist of hominy (dried maize kernels which have been treated with an alkali) and are similar to polenta. Grits can be served hot or cold and as a base for a multitude of dishes from breakfast to dessert, depending on the additives. Shrimp with grits is a very common dish on the east or Gulf coast. It is also common for people from above the Mason-Dixon line to have sugar with their grits. So, now that you got the low-down on grits, I suggest you try out this recipe and enjoy a good ol’ Southern dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 oz.) chicken broth
  • 2 cups low-fat or fat-free milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream (see below for healthier/lighter options)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 3/4 cup shredded 2% reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Directions

  1. Place a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the broth, milk, cream & salt. Slowly whisk in the grits.
  2. When grits begin to bubble, turn heat down to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.
  3. Allow to cook about 10 minutes or until thickened and smooth.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses, hot sauce & pepper. Thin out with a little extra milk, if desired.

* To make this lighter/reduce calories, you can omit the cream altogether & substitute water or increase the chicken broth or milk. Ratio is 1 cup grits to 4 cups liquid.

Southern Potato Salad


I lived in the South (Georgia) for many years and loved so many things about it. One was the people/friends that I made, whom I found to be truly down-to-earth and caring folks. Second… some of their delicious “southern” dishes. Southern Potato Salad, to me, is THE best and is the only kind that I’ll have now. I realize that everyone has their favorite kind of potato salad, but from the rave reviews I received at work this week when I brought this dish in, I’d recommend giving it a try.  This recipe serves 4, so if you need more, just double the ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes (I recommend Yukon Gold for their creamy & buttery texture)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sweet relish
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp prepared mustard (yellow or Dijon)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (use regular, low-fat or fat-free)
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar (white vinegar can be substituted)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp minced onion (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add peeled potatoes & cook until tender but still firm, about 15-20 minutes; drain & chop into cubes.
  2. Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil; cover, remove from heat, and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water; peel and chop.
  3. In a large bowl, combine eggs, celery, sweet relish, garlic, mustard, mayo, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper. Mix well, then add potatoes and toss gently. Chill for 2 hours before serving, sprinkle with paprika.

Quinoa


Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a grain that comes from the Andes Mountains of South America. Quinoa’s origins are truly ancient. It was one of  the three staple foods, along with corn and potatoes, of the Inca civilization. Quinoa was known then, and still is known, with respect, as the mother grain. It is often called the “Supergrain of the Future.” Quinoa contains all eight essential amino acids and more protein than any other grain; an average of 16.2  percent, compared with 7.5 percent for rice, 9.9 percent for millet, and 14 percent for wheat. It looks like a grain and is often regarded as a whole grain even though it is actually the seed of a plant that is related to spinach. Quinoa is also low in fat and a good source of other nutrients such as calcium. As quinoa is free from gluten, it makes an ideal alternative for people who eat a gluten-free diet. Quinoa is naturally high in fiber and this is a useful addition to most diets. It is has many uses, like breakfast cereal, as a substitution for rice or in combination dishes such as pilaf, to name a few.

Cooking Instructions:

Quinoa should be rinsed thoroughly before cooking to remove any powdery residue. Place grain in a fine strainer and hold under cold running water until water runs clear; drain well.

To cook, use 2 cups liquid per 1 cup of quinoa. Combine liquid & quinoa in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover & cook until the grains are translucent and the germ has spiraled out from each grain. About 15 minutes.

I add some salt, pepper and garlic to the water prior to boiling for additional flavor.

Glazed Beef Tenderloin (with Herbed New Potatoes)


This is, by far, my favorite recipe for beef tenderloin (filet mignon) that I’ve been making for years. The marinade is extremely simple, yet so very tasty.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup steak sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic or 1 tbsp garlic powder (optional)
  • 4 beef tenderloin steaks, about 1 inch thick
  • 8 small new potatoes (1 lb), cut lengthwise in half
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh or 1/4 tsp dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh or 1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions

  1. In shallow glass or plastic dish, mix steak sauce, brown sugar & garlic; reserve 2 tablespoons sauce.
  2. Add beef to remaining sauce (about 1/4 cup); turn to coat.
  3. Cover and refrigerate, turning beef 2 or 3 times, at least 1 hour but no longer than 24 hours.
  4. Heat gas or charcoal grill.
  5. In 2-quart microwavable casserole, place potatoes and water; cover.
  6. Microwave on high 3 to 5 minutes or until potatoes are just tender.
  7. Place potatoes on sheet of heavy-duty foil.
  8. Spray potatoes with cooking spray; sprinkle with rosemary, thyme and paprika. Wrap securely in foil.
  9. When grill is heated, place beef and packet of potatoes on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill over medium coals; cover grill.
  10. Cook 7 minutes. Turn beef and potatoes; brush reserved sauce over beef. Cover and grill about 6 to 8 minutes longer for medium beef doneness; remove from heat.
  11. Sprinkle salt and pepper over potatoes.

Cherry-Arugula Salad With Almonds & Tarragon


 Cherries and almonds are a classic pair and make a delicious salad combination with tart arugula and fragrant tarragon.

Ingredients

  •  2 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 6 tbsp slivered almonds, divided
  • 1/2 pound cherries (about 2 cups), pitted and halved, divided
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 5 oz baby arugula
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked whole grains (e.g. barley, farro, wheat berries, wild rice, or even quinoa)

Directions

  1. In a blender, combine vinegar, shallot, mustard, water, 3 tbsp of the almonds and 1/4 cup of the pitted cherries.
  2. Blend until very smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in tarragon.
  3. Combine arugula, cooked grains and remaining cherries in a large bowl.
  4. Toss with the dressing and garnish with the remaining 3 tbsp almonds.