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Keeping it Real for Valentine’s Day

There are some who will go all out for Valentine’s Day – reservations at a romantic restaurant, roses, chocolates, champagne, etc.  That’s wonderful and sweet and everyone should experience that once in their lives.  For some of us though, a more casual event is in order.  If you are like me and you are married, and a mom, and you have to get up for work the next day; you might want a simple evening at home.  Maybe you’re hosting a singles party for those without a significant other.  Maybe you and your sweetie can’t be together for whatever reason.  That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourselves.  I have the perfect menu for you.  The recipes that are fun and easy and great for any time of the year.

Aphrodite’s Love Boats

Ingredients

Romaine Lettuce – 1 head or 2 hearts
Hearts of Palm – 1 can (15 oz.)
Artichoke Hearts (in oil) – 1 can (14 oz.)
Cucumber – 1
Feta Cheese – 8 oz. (crumbled)
Red Pepper Dressing (recipe follows) – ½ to 1 cup

Directions

  1. Cut the base off the romaine, leaving the leaves intact. Rinse the lettuce and drain.
  1. Drain the hearts of palm and artichoke hearts.
  1. Thinly slice the hearts of palm and artichoke hearts.
  1. Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds by scraping with a small spoon. Thinly slice the cucumbers.
  1. Arrange 8 – 12 romaine leaves on a platter.
  1. Toss together the hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, cucumber, and feta cheese and fill the romaine leaves with the mixture.
  1. Drizzle red pepper dressing over the top of the “boats” and serve.

Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

Ingredients:

Red Peppers – 3-4
Red Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup
Olive Oil – ½ cup
Garlic – 1-2 cloves (fresh or roasted)
Fresh Basil – 4-5 large leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
Salt and Pepper – to taste

Directions:

  1. Char red peppers until skin is completely blackened.
  1. Put peppers in a bowl and cover with foil to steam.
  1. When they are cool enough to handle, remove skins and seeds.
  1. Place ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until blended.

Note: You can use store bought roasted peppers. Drain them and skip to step number 4. The dressing will be a little denser but you can thin it out with more liquid like vinegar, oil, or even water.

Venus de Mezze – Mediterranean Appetizer Platter

Chicken Gyro Meatballs

Ingredients

Ground Chicken – 3 lbs.
Bread Crumbs – 1 ½ cups
Eggs – 3
Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves – minced
Dried Dill – 2 tsp.
Dried Coriander – 2 tsp.
Dried Oregano – 1 tsp.
Salt – 2 tsp.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  1. Mix meat, bread crumbs eggs, garlic, dill, coriander, oregano, and salt together .
  1. Form and roll mixture into small meatballs.
  1. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Spanakopita Bites

Ingredients

Phyllo Dough Cups – 2 pkgs (15 each)
Frozen Spinach- 2 boxes (thawed)
Red Onion – 1 small
Garlic – 2 cloves
Eggs – 2
Feta – 4 oz.
Dill – 4 sprigs
Scallions – 3
Salt and Pepper – to taste
Olive Oil – as needed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  1. Thaw spinach, then wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze excess water out.
  1. Dice red onion and mince garlic. Chop dill and thinly slice scallions. Beat the eggs.
  1. In a large sauté pan, cook onion and garlic until softened.
  1. Turn off heat and mix in spinach, dill, and feta. Stir in eggs and add salt and pepper.
  1. Fill each phyllo cup with 1-2 tsp. of filling.
  1. Place cups on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes until filling is cooked through.

Hummus

Ingredients:
 
Garbanzo Beans – 1 can (drained and rinsed)
or ¼ lb. of dried garbanzo beans (soaked, and cooked)
Garlic – 1 clove (or more to taste)
Sesame Oil or Tahini – 1 tsp.
Lemons – 1- 2 (juice and zest (optional)
Olive oil as needed
Salt to taste
Pita Chips (4 pitas toasted)

Directions:
 

  1.  Wash and dry lemons and zest them.
  2. Crush and peel garlic clove.
  3. Add drained beans, tahini, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice (to taste) to the food processor. I like lemony hummus so I use a lot of lemon.
  4. Start processor and drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency you like.
  5. Adjust seasonings.
  6. Serve with toasted pita chips.
Eros is My Hero – Steak Sandwiches with Thai the Knot Chimichurri Sauce
Ingredients
London Broil – 2 lbs.
Marinade (recipe follows)
Chimichurri (recipe follows)
Good Quality Bread – 8 thick slices or 16 thin slices
Olive Oil – 2-3 tbs. for toasting the bread

Directions

  1. Marinate the steak for at least an hour in the fridge or up to 24 hours. Take it out about 30 minutes before grilling so it can come to room temperature.
  1. In the meantime arrange the greens on a serving platter.
  1. Remove steak from marinade and discard marinade.
  1. Place steak on a hot grill for about 2-5 minutes per side depending on thickness.
  1. Allow meat to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  1. Slice thin pieces against the grain.
  1. Drizzle bread with olive oil. Toast bread in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned and slightly crisp around the edges.
  1. Arrange about 4 oz. of meat on 8 pieces of bread. Drizzle with chimichurri. Can serve open-faced sandwich just like this or place second piece of bread on top.

Marinade

Ingredients

Pineapple Juice – 1 cup
Tamari (Gluten Free Soy Sauce) – ¼ cup
Rice Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup
Garlic – 3 cloves – grated or chopped
Ginger – 1 inch piece – peeled and grated or chopped

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  1. Pour over the steak and let it marinate for 1-24 hours.

Thai Inspired Herb Dressing

Ingredients

Basil – 1 handful
Cilantro – 1 handful
Mint – about 5 leaves
Garlic – 1 clove
Ginger – 1 tsp. grated
Limes – 2
Rice Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup (if needed)
Salt – to taste
Neutral Oil – ½ cup (vegetable or canola)

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor combine basil, cilantro, mint, garlic, ginger, a pinch or two of salt, and the juice of 1 lime.
  1. Blend until ingredients are combined.
  1. Drizzle in oil until you get a dressing consistency.
  1. At this point, taste and adjust. You can add more salt or lime juice or rice wine vinegar as needed.

Note: Sometimes limes don’t provide enough juice. You can use rice wine vinegar to add a mellow acid note if the limes aren’t juicy enough. You can also just use the vinegar if you don’t have fresh limes on hand.

Love me 2 Thymes Potatoes

Ingredients

Red or White New Potatoes – 30 small
Salt – 2-3 tsp. as needed
Olive Oil – 2 tbs.
Lemon – 1 (zest and juice)
Dried Thyme – 1-2 tsp.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  1. Scrub potatoes. Place in pot with enough water to just cover them. Simmer until cooked through. Add 1 tsp. salt while potatoes are simmering.
  1. Drain potatoes and allow them to cool slightly.
  1. Using a pastry scraper or small pan, press on potatoes to flatten them.
  1. Zest juice the lemon.
  1. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, lemon zest, 1 tbs. of lemon juice, thyme, and a few pinches of salt.
  1. Spread potatoes in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  1. Bake until potatoes are browned and slightly crisped.


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Realish Food on the Road – The Maine Event

First of all, need I say more? This is the lovely view from our hotel in York, Maine. All we had to do was step out the front door and take this in. It is the epitome of a quaint, New England seaside town. This particular day was a bit dreary and the tide was coming in, so it feels a bit smaller than it actually is. I don’t mind that at all. It feels very cozy and intimate. Never fear though, the next day it was 80 degrees and sunny and quite crowded.

We stayed at the Union Bluff Hotel in the Annex, which is slightly more motel than hotel, as the rooms open up to the outside. Don’t let that deter you because every room in the Annex faces the ocean and has this view. We were extremely lucky as we booked on a Monday for a stay starting on Tuesday. I advise you not to wait until the last minute though. You could easily miss out on the opportunity to stay at this beautiful place. Rooms book a year in advance, sometimes three years in advance. We booked for next summer as we were checking out.

I can’t say enough about this property. The staff is friendly, accommodating, and helpful.

Now let’s get to the food. Lobster, lobster, lobster… Yes. I ate lobster every day, but not your everyday steamed lobster with drawn butter and a baked potato – not that there’s anything wrong with that. I was really impressed with the innovative ways in which I enjoyed lobster. There was the lobster taco that I enjoyed at Gaskin’s Barbecue and Lobster. I don’t care for aioli or mayo in any way, shape, or form, so I skipped the coleslaw and chipotle aioli, and had them put avocado sauce and kimchi on mine. Yes kimchi. It was awesome and didn’t over power the lobster meat at all. My daughter enjoyed the pulled pork very much and my husband loved the brisket. They get extra points for having gluten free rolls and clearly labeling the gf items on the menu. They also had an array of bbq sauces to try, ranging from vinegar based to tomato based. All were delicious.

Here is my take on a lobster taco.

Lobster Tacos

Ingredients
Corn Tortillas – 8
Lobster Meat – 1 lb.
Avocado Spread (recipe follows)
Quick Kimchi Slaw (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Heat corn tortillas in the oven, in a dry frying pan, or microwave.
  2. Spoon a thin layer of avocado spread on the tortilla.
  3. Pile with about 2 oz. of lobster meat and top with kimchi slaw.
  4. Enjoy. Serves 2-4 people depending on how much you like to eat.

Avocado Spread

Ingredients
Avocados – 1-2 (ripe – soft to touch but not mushy)
Cilantro – 2 tbs. (finely chopped)
Fresh Lime Juice – 1-2 tbs. (to taste)
Salt – at least 1 tsp. or more to taste
Hot Sauce – a few dashes or to taste

Directions

  1. Cut open avocados and scoop flesh into a bowl.
  2. Add in lime juice and salt.
  3. Mash together until you get a smooth paste.
  4. Add cilantro and hot sauce.
  5. At this point, you should taste and adjust seasonings.

Really Quick Kimchi Slaw

Ingredients
Cole Slaw Mix – 1 bags
Radishes – 8
Scallions – 4
Garlic – 3 cloves
Ginger – 1 inch piece
Soy Sauce – 1 tbs. + 2 tsp.
Chili Sauce or Chili Paste – 1-3 tbs.
Sugar – 1 tbs.
Rice Vinegar – 3 tbs.

Directions

  1. Thinly slice the radishes and scallions and toss them with the cole slaw mix in a large bowl.
  2. Grate the garlic and the ginger and whisk together with the soy sauce, chili sauce, sugar, and rice vinegar.
  3. Toss together the dressing and the veggies and hold at room temperature until ready to serve.
  4. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

http://www.unionbluff.com/

https://www.gaskinsbarbecue.com/


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Tell Your Turkey to Hit the Road – To Southeast Asia

Today we will address how to use up leftover veggies. Whether boiled, roasted, or just sliced and diced, there are always leftover veggies. We will call on a favorite, fast, and easy dish from Thailand and Vietnam to turn those veggies into appetizing packages. Summer Rolls are delicious, filling, and refreshing – and they’re really fun to make and eat.

Summer Rolls with Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

Rice Wraps – 8-12
Leftover Veggies – 2 cups – carrots, celery, etc.
Cilantro – 1 handful of leaves
Mint – 1 handful of leaves (optional)
Vinegar – rice wine or apple cider – ¼ cup
Salt – to taste
Neutral Oil – ½ cup
Sesame Oil – 1 tsp. (optional)
Pomegranate Dipping Sauce – recipe follows

Directions

  1. Chop or shred veggies into small pieces.
  2. Make a light dressing with the vinegar, salt, and oils. Toss veggies with a minimal about of dressing.
  3. Fill a shallow bowl or baking dish with water.
  4. Pass rice wrap through water to make it pliable.
  5. Lay it flat and fill bottom third with veggie mix. Add a few cilantro leaves and some mint if you are using it.
  6. Roll like a burrito. Roll up from the bottom to cover mixture. Fold in the sides and continue to roll.
  7. Cut in half diagonally. Serve with pomegranate dipping sauce.

 

Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

Pomegranate Juice – 1 cup
Tamari (gluten free soy sauce) – 1 tbs.
Brown Sugar – 1 tsp.
Fresh Ginger – 1 tsp. grated
Garlic – 1 clove grated
Scallions – 2-3 thinly sliced.
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Simmer all ingredients in a small pan until combined and slightly thickened. Allow to cool. Garnish with scallions.
  2. Serve with summer rolls.


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Tell Your Turkey to Hit the Road – To Mexico

Today’s International Idea is sure to become a leftover fiesta favorite. This is a new take on how to use up both turkey and cranberry sauce. In this case we are using the cranberry jelly that comes from a can, but any extra cranberry sauce will work.

Turkey Enchiladas

Ingredients

Turkey Meat (white or dark) – 2 cups
Chili Powder – 1 tsp.
Cumin – 1 tsp.
Salt – to taste
Lime Juice – ½ – 1 lime – to taste
Olive Oil – 1-2 tsp.
Corn Tortillas -12
Monterey or Pepper Jack Cheese – 4-8 oz. shredded (optional)
Cranberry Tomatillo Salsa – 2 cups or as needed (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Toss together turkey, chili powder, cumin, salt, lime juice and olive oil.
  3. Heat corn tortillas until they are pliable.
  4. Spread about 2 tbs. of turkey on the bottom half of the tortilla. If using cheese sprinkle about 1 tsp. over the turkey mixture.
  5. Roll up the tortilla and place fold side down in baking dish. Continue until all tortillas are filled and rolled.
  6. Spoon salsa over the top to lightly cover the enchiladas.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes until heated through.
  8. Serve with remaining salsa.

Note: If you love cheese, feel free to sprinkle some extra over the whole thing before you bake the enchiladas.

Cranberry Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients

Tomatillos – 1½ pounds
Red Onion – ½ of small onion
Garlic Cloves – 2
Serrano or Jalapenos – 2
Jellied Cranberry Sauce – ½ – 15 oz. can (or more to taste)
Lime Juice – 1 lime or to taste
Cilantro – 1 handful
Salt – to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a sheet tray with cooking spray.
  2. Remove husks from tomatillos, rinse and cut in half. Peel and cut onion in half.
  3. On sheet tray place tomatillos, onion, garlic cloves, and serranos or jalapenos. Spray lightly with cooking spray or drizzle with oil.
  4. Roast until tomatillos are softened.
  5. Peel garlic gloves and remove stem and seeds from chiles.
  6. In a food processor, puree roasted veggies with cranberry sauce, lime juice, cilantro, and salt until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.


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Tell Your Turkey to Hit the Road – to Greece…

Today’s International Inspiration for using up Thanksgiving leftovers will take us to Greece. This next recipe was inspired by a trip to a local taverna – by local I mean Northern NJ, where I live, not local as in Mykonos. This is my take on skordalia, a Greek potato and garlic dip. I have omitted the almonds because I try to keep my recipes as allergy free/friendly as possible. This dip can be served as an appetizer or a side with toasted pita, crackers, or crudité. You know, because you probably have some of those left over as well.

Greek Potato and Garlic Dip with Crudite

Ingredients

Baking Potatoes – 2 large

Garlic – 1 head (roasted)

Olive Oil – about ¼ cup (or as needed)

Lemon Zest and Juice – 1 lemon

Dill – 2-3 tbs. chopped

Salt – to taste

Crudite – any veggies you like cut into small pieces: celery, carrots, cucumbers, etc.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel and chop potatoes into large pieces.
  3. Boil in salted water until cooked through.
  4. Cut the top of the head of garlic off to expose cloves. Drizzle garlic with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in oven until softened – about 30 minutes.
  5. In a food processor puree potatoes, 2-3 cloves of roasted garlic, lemon zest, at least 1 tsp. salt, about 1 tsp. of lemon juice, and half the dill. Drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency you like.
  6. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  7. Spoon into large serving bowl and garnish with remaining dill.
  8. Serve with crudité.


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All You Need is Love II

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All You Need is Love II

In my most recent post, I suggested a list of ingredients that I recommend you keep on hand on a regular basis. My reasons for choosing these ingredients are that they are easy to find, healthy, and inexpensive – and can provide a long list of versatile and delicious meals.

I gave you a list of ingredients and a list of 8 dishes you can make with them. I have previously provided 4 recipes and now I will provide the final 4. In my next post I will provide a game plan for keeping an abundance of prepared food on hand with minimal planning and work. If you are willing to do a little extra labor for a couple of nights, you can probably save yourself 2 or 3 nights of cooking later on.

I previously provided recipes for Black Beans and Rice, Lentil Soup, Vegetable Soup, and Stuffed Peppers. The remaining recipes follow.

Vegetarian Chili
Veggie Stir Fry
Fried Rice
Quick Refrigerator Pickles

Vegetarian Chili

1 medium onion – chopped
1 medium to large bell pepper – chopped
1-3 cloves of garlic – minced
1 (or more) chile of choice – minced (I like serranos and jalapenos for this)
3 cups of canned tomatoes (pureed, strained, sauce)
1 cup of water
3-4 cups of cooked beans of choice (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
Cilantro (optional)
Oil, Salt, Pepper (as needed)

Heat up some oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan or pot you are using). Saute onions and peppers for a few minutes. Add garlic and chile and saute for another minute or two. Add tomatoes and water and simmer for 5 or 10 minutes to combine flavors. Add salt and pepper as needed. Add in cooked beans.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasonings as you go. Finish with chopped cilantro to taste. For a more filling meal, serve over rice.

Note: Try to use at least 2 kinds of beans for this dish. It’s nice to have variety. My favorite beans for chili are black, pink, kidney, and garbanzo. Feel free to use any kind you like.

Veggie Stir Fry

Chopped Veggies of your choice (2-4 cups)
1-3 Garlic Cloves – minced
Chile – minced (optional)
Oil (one that can stand a high heat such as canola or coconut)
Water – approx. ¼ cup
Tamari – to taste
Cilantro (optional)
Cooked Rice – 2 cups

I like to use big chunks of veggies for this. Just make sure they are similar in size so they cook at the same rate. The veggies we have on hand from the shopping list are carrots, celery, onions, and bell peppers. Heat up some oil in a sauté pan. Add all the chopped veggies and sauté for a few minutes. When veggies are cooked about halfway through, add the garlic and chiles. Small pieces of garlic burn quickly and can ruin a dish so we add them later in the cooking process. Cook for about 2 minutes and add some water. We add the water for 2 reasons. One, it will create steam and speed up the cooking process. Two, it will keep the garlic from burning. Add tamari to taste. Finish with cilantro and serve over cooked rice.

Fried Rice

Chopped Veggies of your choice (2-4 cups)
Garlic – minced
Chile – minced (optional)
Oil (one that can stand a high heat such as canola or coconut)
Water – approx. ¼ cup
Tamari
Cilantro (optional)
Cooked Rice – 2 cups

I like to use smaller chunks of veggies for this. Just make sure they are similar in size so they cook at the same rate. The veggies we have on hand from the shopping list are carrots, celery, onions, and bell peppers. Heat up some oil in a sauté pan. Add all the chopped veggies and sauté for a few minutes. When veggies are cooked about halfway through add the garlic and chiles. Small pieces of garlic burn quickly and can ruin a dish so we add them later in the cooking process. Cook for about 2 minutes and add some water. We add the water for 2 reasons. One, it will create steam and speed up the cooking process. Two, it will keep the garlic from burning. Add tamari to taste. Stir in the fried rice and cook until everything is mixed together and heated through.

Note: This recipe is very similar to the Veggie Stir Fry. The difference is that you chop the veggies into smaller pieces and you add the cooked rice into the pan instead of serving the veggies over the rice.  Also, this is a great time to use the leftover rice from the fridge.  No need to make fresh rice.  The old stuff actually works better.

Quick Refrigerator Pickles

2 Cups of Water
1 cup of Vinegar (I like white or apple cider)
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar (or agave or honey)
3 cups of Veggies of your choice (carrots are my favorite but celery works too)

Bring water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil and let simmer for a few minutes until salt and sugar dissolve. Clean, peel, and slice veggies into bite-size pieces. Place in clean glass jars. Pour in pickling liquid. Let this cool before you cover with lids. Place in refrigerator.  These will be ready in a few hours and keep for about 2 weeks, if refrigerated.   They only get better with time. Serve as a snack, side dish, on a sandwich, any way you like. These pickles will be very mild. Feel free to adjust salt and sugar ratios or add garlic or chiles to spice things up a bit. If using garlic or chiles, add them to the cooking liquid and simmer along with the other ingredients.

Note: You can save old jars from store-bought pickles, or salsa for this use. No need to buy new ones. You can also use plastic containers, but I prefer glass for this.  


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Veganomics – Hummus – Recipe

realishhummus

Okay, let’s just say that I LOVE hummus. It’s delicious, affordable, versatile, and crowd-pleasing. My husband and I have often made a meal of it with sliced veggies and pita bread or crackers.   I personally use dried beans almost exclusively, but in this case I often make an exception. The recipe below is very straightforward and easy to remember so that’s the one I’m providing. It’s basically one of everything: 1 can of beans, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp. tahini, 1 lemon. Olive oil and salt as needed. It’s extremely easy to double the recipe.   I wouldn’t make more than 2 cans worth (or ½ lb. dried) at a time as the food processor might not be able to accommodate more ingredients. You can also use this recipe if you have a mini-food-processor. The one of everything version is perfect. The only issue is that you can’t drizzle the olive oil while the processor is going. You have to add a little olive oil at a time and start and stop until you get the consistency you like.

Hummus

1 can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
or ¼ lb. of dried garbanzo beans (soaked, and cooked)
1 clove of garlic (or more to taste)
1 tsp. tahini
1-2 lemons – juice and zest (optional)
Olive oil as needed
Salt to taste

Wash and dry lemons and zest them. Crush and peel garlic clove. Add drained beans, tahini, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice (to taste) to the food processor. I like lemony hummus so I use a lot of lemon. Start processor and drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency you like. Adjust seasonings.  Serve with veggies, pita bread, crackers, chips. Hummus also makes a great sandwich or wrap. Spread bread with hummus and pile on whatever veggies you like.

Note: Tahini can have a seemingly high price tag when compared with the other ingredients. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way. It keeps in the fridge indefinitely, and even if you made hummus once a week, your supply would last from 6 months to 1 year. Also, you can skip it. It’s not mandatory but I think it adds a nice flavor. That being said, if I didn’t have tahini on hand, I would still make hummus.