Summer Salad: Mixed Raw Veggies in Marinate

Mixed Veggie Cold Salad

If you are looking for a way to incorporate veggies into your meal plan, this mixed veggie salad might fit the bill. With so many summer garden veggies on the vine, I am always scouting out ways to use up the bounty.

Since the wine-guy (AKA, Honey-Man) is in the wine business, there is never a shortage of great olive oils from famous wine countries. Some of these olive oils can retail upwards of $60 a bottle. I happened to use one of those olive oils for this salad. Take note, I don’t pay that much for the olive oil. This bottle was a sample gift from one of the vineyards the wine guy represents.

Fresh Vegetables for SaladI used the veggies I had on hand which included:

                      • (1) small bunch of Broccoli, chopped
                      • (2) steamed corn on the cob, remove corn from the cob
                      • (2) medium, tomatoes deseeded
                      • (2) medium, cucumbers, deseeded
  • (1) bunch of scallions, chopped
  • (24) pit-free, calamari olives
  • (4) ounces fat-free Feta cheese, crumbled
  • (1) small zucchini, chopped
  • Fresh basil leaves to taste

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                    •  Salad Dressing
                    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
                    • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Mix the dressing and pour over salad ingredients just before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Marinated Fresh Veggie Salad

This recipe will yield approximately (8) one cup servings. Serve over a bed of green scallions (use the green portion that you would normally discard) and add a few fresh basil sprigs.

Tip: A grilled chicken breast would compliment this salad along with a glass of Pinot Grigio wine.

Apple Raspberry Crisp

Apple Raspberry Crisp

This is an adaptation of my Apple Crisp recipe only with fresh raspberries and oatmeal (for fiber). It doesn’t have to be served hot and on a 90 degree day (like today), it’s a perfect fit with a couple scoops of ice cream.

Apple Raspberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 4 large apples, peeled and sliced
  • 8 teaspoons Splenda sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup quick cook oats
  • 1/4 cup “I can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”, softened
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Apple Raspberry Crisp

How To

Mix apples, raspberries, Splenda sugar, flour and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a bowl. Transfer to a 9 x 9 inch baking dish.

Apple Raspberry CrispUse the same bowl and combine oats, brown sugar, margarine and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Evenly distribute over the fruit in the baking pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees.

Let’s talk calories. This dish will serve six to eight people. A one cup serving is in the neighborhood of 153 calories.

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Chicken Pesto Pasta SaladMy assistant, Jenni, shared this awesome pasta salad recipe with me. It is delish and so easy to make. In this ungodly heat wave we are experiencing in Michigan, no one wants to spend time in a hot kitchen. This one dish meal is perfect for hot weather and has minimal prep time.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 packets of pesto sauce (I use the jar pesto sauce from Costco)
  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts, chopped and cooked
  • 1 box of Rotini noodles
  • 1 bag steamable frozen vegetables

Prepare the pesto sauce and the noodles as directed on the package. Chop chicken breasts into bite size pieces and pan sear on stove top.

Cook the vegetables as directed. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and serve. This dish can be served hot or cold. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the salad when reheating.

Easy Tomato, Red Onion, Cucumber, Feta Salad

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Last weekend friends visited for the weekend. We did some boating and then a backyard cook-out on the deck. My friend, Janelle, brought this salad YUM-YUM salad which was ideal for a hot, steamy summer day. Very refreshing.

Thanks, Janelle, for sharing the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 ½ Large Seedless English Cucumber (Sliced and then cut in half)
Approx. 6 cups chopped tomatoes (large chopped, about the size of a grape tomato).  I used Campari and Roma, but you could really use any kind you would like.  (It equated out to 4 Roma’s and 16 Campari).
1 4oz container of Light Feta Cheese
3 Tablespoons of your favorite Balsamic Salad Dressing (I used Maple Grove Fat Free)
1 5.3oz – 6oz Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt (I used Okios)
2 ½ Tablespoons of Italian Seasoning or you can substitute with 1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil
1 teaspoon of minced garlic (I was lazy and used the ‘roasted garlic’ in the jar pre-minced)
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
½ Red Onion Sliced (marinated in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for 2 hours or over night)

Here are some tips on making this salad:

If making the day before, you don’t want it to get soggy, so this is how I prepped it:

Chopped all the Cucumber and Onion the night before, and ‘marinate’ the onion. Mix  the ‘dressing’ the night before (yogurt, dressing, garlic, Italian seasoning) and stored in an air tight container.The morning of, chop tomatoes and add cucumbers, salt and pepper and put it into a serving bowl.

When time to eat, add the feta, onions, and dressing to the cucumber and tomato mixture and wawlaa! Add sea salt and ground pepper on the top once it is all mixed together.

Sidebar from Blimpy Girl: I had leftover salad the next day for lunch. I used a slotted spoon to scoop out the salad. It was delish!!

Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic over Pasta

Basil, Garlic and Tomato Pasta

This is one of the easiest meals ever. Once the pasta is cooked (takes 8-10 minutes),  toss in a mixture of olive oil, fire roasted tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and onion.

Here’s how:

Cook 8-10 ounces of dry pasta as directed on package. I used half thin spaghetti and half fettuccine. Drain and set aside.

In a deep skillet combine 1/4 cup olive oil. Add one chopped zucchini, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 2 cloves finely chopped garlic. Cook until tender, about 6-7 minutes.

Add the following seasonings to the pan:

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 red pepper flakes

NOTE: Fresh herbs can be used instead of dried herbs. You will need to adjust amounts accordingly.

Fire Roasted Tomato, Garlic, Basil Pasta

Add 1 can fire roasted tomatoes to the skillet (with juice). Mix well; heat through and add cooked pasta.

Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese with a side of fresh spinach. I used a no-fat Italian dressing on the spinach.

That’s it! Easy, Peasie! You are looking at around 480 calories per serving. The recipe given will serve six. Grilled asparagus (six spears) will complete the meal and add only 30 calories. A medium slice of hard crusted baguette bread is 170 calories.

I would personally stick with a serving of the pasta and asparagus.

Tomota, garlic, basil pasta

 

Southern Style Chicken & Dumpling Dinner

Chicken & Dumplings

My grandma was a Southern born lady and cooking was her claim to that heritage. She made the meanest pan of cornbread and the tastiest chicken and dumplings this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

My ten-year old grandson, Carson, is a die-hard chicken and dumpling fan. He loves Cracker Barrel’s dumplings; I told him I could make a pot chicken dumplings just like that, maybe better. The challenge was on.

Making the dough for dumplingsDough Recipe:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter (you can also use a low-fat butter type)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter. Once the mix is crumbly, slowly add the milk until you can form the dough into a ball. If dough is still sticky, dust with a handful of flour and incorporate into the dough mixture.

Roll out dough and cut into strips

Liberally sprinkle flour onto a cutting surface. Roll out the dough to a 3/8″ thickness. Dust rolling pin and dough mixture with flour as needed.

Cut dough into strips using a pizza cutter, then cut in opposite direction to form small dumpling squares.

Cut rolled dough into dumpling squares

 

Add a handful of flour to a large platter. Using a spatula or edge of knife lift the squares from the cutting area and place layers of dumplings onto the platter. Coat each dumpling layer (both sides) with the flour. This will help to thicken the chicken broth to a gravy consistency.

Coat the dumpling with flour

Bring 8 cups of chicken broth to a boil; I made my broth from bouillon. Drop dumplings into the broth one at a time. You don’t want the dumplings clumping together. They will, if you put them all into the broth at the same time.

Add dumplings to brothCook the dumplings (uncovered) for 20 minutes over medium heat. While the dumplings are cooking, cut-up 18 ounces of cooked chicken breasts.

You can cut the chicken into strips, coarsely dice, or cube. I prefer cubed.

 

Cook the dumplings until they are no longer doughyOnce the dumplings are thoroughly cooked (no longer doughy), add the cut or chopped chicken meat to the broth.

Add grated carrots to the broth and/or 1 cup of frozen peas. My grandson loves peas, the wine guy does not. I opted for carrots only.

 

Cube, dice or slice the cooked chicken

If you want a creamier gravy, this is the time to thicken the broth with additional flour. To do that, add a handful of ice cubes to a measuring cup along with 1/4 cup water. Stir in 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons flour. Mix well, gradually adding to the broth.

 

Add grated carrots to the dumpling broth

For the record…I won the challenge. My grandson said my chicken and dumplings were better than Cracker Barrel. Maybe he was just sucking up, but the fact that he ate four bowls in one sitting tells me he may have been truthful. Hope you enjoy!

This recipe makes approximately 10 cups of chicken and dumplings. You’re in the neighborhood of 399 calories per 1 cup serving. Trust me, one cup of the dumplings with a side salad is very filling. You can shave 20 calories per serving by using two tablespoons butter instead of three.

Vegetable & Ham Quiche Pot Pie

Ham Pot Pie with Vegetable

I was feeling a bit stressed yesterday afternoon about some business stuff. If I were a smoker, I  would have puffed on a few cigarettes to relieve the anxiety. Instead, I decided to cook something; it proved to be the perfect therapy.

I had no idea what I was going to cook. I shuffled things around in the fridge and found some leftover veggies, a tomato, onion. That was a start. I then spotted two cans of crescent rolls and a half opened container of vegetable broth, so I snagged those as well. And just as I was about to close the fridge door, I spotted some leftover ham.

IMG_3261The idea of a pot pie was planted in my mind, and I ran with it. I was in just the right mood to toss my creativity to the wind and see what happened.

Chopping the ham and veggies was a perfect anti-stress workout. I visualized my business stress with every chop of the blade. Extremely therapeutic.

Add cheese to the pot pie broth Once everything was chopped, I set the veggies aside to make a creamy broth. Broth was made with:

  • 1/4 cup I Can’t Believe It’s Not butter (less calories)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (low salt)
  • 2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce
  • 3 handfuls cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2  to 1 3/4 cups)
  • 2 cups low-fat yogurt
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Add vegetable to the broth

If you want a thicker broth add an egg or two. If adding eggs, you run the risk of the mixture becoming more like a frittata. As a sidebar, this broth also makes a great filling for crepes.

Add the asparagus to the broth mixAdd the cooked asparagus (chopped) to the broth mixture and let sauce simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is cooking, prep a round ceramic quiche dish with the crescent roll dough. If you are lining the bottom of the pan with dough, as I did, you will want to bake in oven for about 8-10 minutes before adding the filling. Otherwise, it may not cook through and be slightly doughy.

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Start by separating the crescent roll triangles. Flatten each triangle with the palm of your hand and place in bottom of quiche pan. Pour a layer of the sauce mixture over top. Repeat another layer of flattened crescent rolls and sauce two more times. The final topping should be the sauce mixture.

IMG_3316I lined the outer edge of the quiche pan with the leftover crescent dough rolled into small ball. A few thin dough pieces were placed on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the dough turns a light crispy brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. I served in 8 x 4 inch Au Gratin bowls.

I placed a cookie sheet beneath the baking dish, to catch any overflow while cooking. I found it to be unnecessary.

IMG_3321Here are the veggies I included in this dish:

  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 12 asparagus stems, cooked and chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli

 

You can also substitute chicken for the ham. If you are using ham, go light on the salt as ham is already quite salty. The dish was very tasty and even the wine-guy liked it. The next time I make this dish, I want to do individual pot pies (in aluminum tins).

Since this was a “fly by the seat of your pants” dish, I wasn’t paying much attention to the calories. The final tally is in the neighborhood of 326 calories per serving ( 8 servings).

 

A Drive and Eat Dinner

My grand kids leave for a week in Florida. It’s an annual trip to a timeshare in Fort Meyers. They spend time with their “other” grandparents. It’s tradition for me to pack them “Roadie Travel Bags”, but this year, I also made our last dinner together a bit more fun by creating a drive and eat meal.

It’s amazing what you can do with a kitchen island, black and yellow masking tape and printed road signs. Of course, a few miniature car/truck props are needed to test out the roads.

Leftover taffy candy from Halloween was a great way to keep the road signs in place; that is, until the kids mowed over them with the vehicles. There was a Michigan map (with napkin and flatware) and Florida map (on dinner plate) with each place setting.

What a great learning experience on the basics of reading a map. My youngest grandson, Fischer, was most excited about the dump truck. He broke up small twigs, loaded them in the truck and drove them to Florida (not without a few crashes).

Make dinner time fun for the little ones.

I love making memories with my grand kids. They will remember this meal long after I disassemble everything. Oh, just for the record, dinner included hot dogs filled with Velveeta cheese and wrapped in bacon, mac and cheese, spinach salad and fresh fruit on wooden skewers.

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

I love cold pasta salads in the summer. Yesterday I had a hankering for one and sought out fresh ingredients that needed to be used up. I found a cucumber, tomato, and asparagus tips that were screaming “Use me”. Onion, broccoli  and bow tie pasta made up the remaining ingredients.

Cut up broccoli, asparagus tips, cucumber and onion.

INGREDIENT LIST:

  • Medium size cucumber chopped, peeled and seeds removed
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup asparagus tips
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/3 cup hot wasabi peas
  • 1 cup bow tie pasta, cooked
  • 1/2 cup lite ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bow Tie PastaHow To

Add broccoli, onion, asparagus tips and cucumber to the water/vinegar mixture. Allow to sit for 15 minutes; then drain.

Add remaining ingredients to the veggie mix. Stir well. Season to taste.

 

Make approximately six cups. A one cup serving (shown below) is in the neighborhood of 177 calories. It’s generous. If using as a side dish, you could reduce to 1/2 cup per serving.

Once cup serving of Bow Tie Pasta Salad

 

Angry Bird Watermelon Fruit Bowl

This weekend my grandson, Carson, celebrated his birthday Angry Bird style. Besides having an Angry Bird cake and a six-foot, giant-size sling shot, there was the Angry Bird fruit bowl.

Plan on at least an hour to put all the pieces together. But, as you can see, it’s worth the time and effort. Many thanks to the wine guy for running with my idea while I filled 150 water balloons. Here is how the birds and pigs were assembled.

Angry Bird Watermelon Fruit BowlSlice a watermelon in half, and cube into bite size pieces. Cut 4 pieces of watermelon into long strips to form the base for Angry Bird tower.

Place the cubes back into one of the watermelon halves along with honeydew melon balls. The picture doesn’t show it, but we also mixed in strawberries and raspberries with the melon.

The birds were hand-carved with a paring knife, as were the snouts of the pigs. Shaved watermelon skin were secured to the snouts with toothpicks (the toothpicks formed the nostrils). Colored toothpicks = pig ears, carrot tips = bird nose, onions = red bird eyes & mouth/toothpicks are the pupils, toothpicks = green bird eyes and rosemary = bird eyebrows.

A rubber band attached to a V-shaped stick forms the slingshot. Hope you have as much fun with this fruit bowl as we did. It was a big hit at the party and the seeing the smile on our grandson’s face made it all worthwhile.