Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gazpacho with Basil Croutons

I've never been a big tomato fan -- especially raw tomatoes, like on a sandwich or in a salad. But for some reason, every summer I end up craving a chilly bowl of tomato-y gazpacho.....my favorite recipe is this one, topped with crunchy, delicious basil croutons.

After some chopping, the whole thing is made in the blender - which my daughter found pretty hilarious. She walked past me in the kitchen and said, "Eeeeew! Are you making a tomato smoothie?! YUK!"

Aside from the three tablespoons of olive oil in the croutons, this is an incredibly healthy and lowfat soup. Other than that, I guess I don't have too much to say about this recipe -- my husband likes it and my kids despise it. But I make it once a summer because I love it!

I can't believe I bought, but forgot to add, the jumbo cooked shrimp that I was supposed to chop and stir in just before serving! What a ding-a-ling! I'll have to find another use for those today....maybe I'll make an orzo salad recipe I saw in one of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.
I'm so happy that leftovers are waiting for me in the fridge for lunch this afternoon!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Steak Salad with Roasted Redskins & Sauteed Mushrooms

My husband's 4.0 tennis team competed this past weekend in the Midwest Championships down in Indianapolis. Sadly, they were edged out of moving on to National's by the team from Michigan -- but it was really close with many third set tie breakers over the course of three days of matches. This is the third year straight that his team has won the Wisconsin title and I know they really wanted to move on, but it just wasn't in the cards. Next year, boys!

We welcomed him home from Indy with another one of my favorite summer meals, the Blackened Steak Salad. Usually I make this more than once per summer, but for some reason last night was the first time this year....and it is gooo-oooooood! I was contemplating using chicken breasts to save on cost and calories, but tenderloin steaks were on special so I decided to go for it.
The original recipe (on Epicurious.com) calls for dunking the steaks in melted butter, then dusting them in the blackening seasonings, and searing them on a blisteringly hot skillet. Last night I skipped the butter step and just pressed the seasonings on the steaks, and tossed them on a hot grill. This worked well and we of course didn't even miss the butter step, although I wouldn't exactly call them "blackened" -- more like, just "spicy".

Alongside we had my favorite Roasted Potatoes with Garlic (yes, they're from Ina -- did you really have to ask?). I was kind of in a time crunch and didn't have the full hour to roast them, so I cut them into quarters, stuck them in a 9x11 Pyrex with a little water, covered them tightly and microwaved them on hi for about 6 minutes. Then I drained them off really well, and proceeded with the recipe. This worked like a charm and shaved off a good 20 minutes of roasting time.

Another favorite and natural accompaniment are these awesome Sauteed Button Mushrooms. These are incredible with any steak, but are especially good with this salad.

We're off to enjoy a hot, steamy day at the pool. I can't believe summer is dwindling down this quickly. My son starts school next Wednesday, eeeeek!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Turkey Jalapeno Cheeseburgers with Spicy Ranch Sauce.....

Jalapeno Cheeseburger with Bacon, Grilled Onions, and Spicy Ranch Sauce

We had a gorgeous Tuesday night at home last evening, and dinner out on the patio again. I was dying for a big ol' cheeseburger on the grill and decided to make one of my all time favorite burger recipes.

These Jalapeno Cheeseburgers (jcb's for short) are the BEST!! They were featured in the grill issue of Bon Appetit one or two years ago, and have become a summer tradition for me. I was feeling like lightening them up a bit though, and I tried them with turkey for the first time. I swear, they were just as good.

The original recipe calls for a coffee glaze that you brush over the burgers while they're grilling, but I've never bothered with that. Seems a little bit too putzy for me; besides, with bacon, cheese, grilled onions, and the amazing spicy ranch sauce, 'coffee glaze' might be a little overkill!

Don't be afraid of the jalapenos; my kiddos gobbled these up and even had seconds! Wish my husband hadn't taken the leftovers to work for lunch....I could go for one of these right now. Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back to the Lake!



Well, the flood is over and we've cleaned up the aftermath....mostly. The poor lawn was drowned for three weeks, but hopefully it'll come back next spring. We've had to rip up the carpet on the first floor, and replace some mil-dewey drywall, but no big deal....and the dock.....well, let's just say that's a lost cause. That'll all be replaced in the springtime. For now, we're just enjoying the lake for what it is -- 'cause summer is fleeting and we have to savor every single second and not worry about stuff that just doesn't really matter!
SO! We spent the weekend out at the lake and we all had a total BLAST! The weather was amazing and the kids all got in a lot of tubing, wakeboarding, and skiing. I even got some time to cook in my little cottage kitchen.
Shrimp Salad Sandwich

One afternoon I made Ina's Shrimp Salad for the husband and myself. We both really liked it and I thought it looked pretty too; it was the perfect lakeside lunch.

I also made her Orzo with Roasted Vegetables (always a hit), which we took when we had dinner with some friends at their cottage. With roasted eggplant, garlic, yellow and red peppers, and red onion, the orzo salad was a nice compliment to the ribs that my friend Jane made. It also calls for fresh basil (which I have a TON of) and cubed feta....yum! I'm just giving you the links because I didn't divert at all from either recipe. Ya gotta love that Ina!

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

I highly recommend both of these salads; they taste just like summer!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Passing along some Yum!

I am so flattered that Lisa at Jersey Girl Cooks has given me a Yum Yum award! She must be one of my five readers, tee hee. ;-) It's so fun for me to know that someone else enjoys this little blog!

I'm going to pass this on to five blogs that I think are really cool. Each one of these ladies is a busy mom like me, and each one consistently posts family friendly recipes that I would absolutely make!

So, my choices for some Yum Yum are as follows:

Melanie, at My Kitchen Cafe

Pamela, at Cookies With Boys

Robin Sue, at Big Red Kitchen

Aggie, at Aggie's Kitchen

and Amey, at Dinners for a Year and Beyond.

Ladies, I love your blogs and check in often!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ad'....and a blog award!

It's my youngest's 8th birthday today, and boy have we had fun!

The birthday girl and her favorite "friend who's a boy"!

We started the day with pancakes in our pj's at my friend Ann's house. Her son is my daughter's best "friend who's a boy" (NOT to be confused with a "boyfriend"!). It was a gorgeous summer day filled with fun and pals, AND this:

"Towering Sand Castle Cake"

I always say I'd never fit in with the Daring Bakers, and ain't it the truth. I was up to my elbows in icing and cursing a blue streak over this cake, but I have to say, I was quite pleased with how it turned out! Thank goodness her birthday only comes once a year, and lucky for me, my other two love Dairy Queen cakes! One of these fancy schmancy deals every 12 months is about enough for me. The recipe came from an issue of Family Fun Magazine. Click underneath the picture for the link!

Birthday Girl requested barbecued ribs and cheesy potatoes for her special dinner. I make this rib recipe all the time (including in the middle of winter when my son also requests the same dinner). It calls for "good quality barbecue sauce", but I'm partial to plain ol' Open Pit, so that's what I always use.

The cheesy potato recipe dates back to the mid-70's, when my mother-in-law didn't turn up to a potluck without a big batch of them. Read the recipe......it's a total throwback! It's not gourmet in the slightest but everyone loves them. I think I've given this recipe to about a dozen people in the past five years!

Chili-Rubbed Ribs

Cheesy Potatoes

Super Cheesy Potatoes
Serves: 6-8
Source: My Mother-in-Law, who probably got it out of a magazine sometime in the late '70's!

1 large bag of frozen diced hashbrown potatoes
1 medium white onion, diced
4 T. flour
1/2 stick butter, diced
1 jar (don't gag.....) Cheez Whiz (I know, I know!)
2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 375. Coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Put half of the potatoes in the pan. Top with half of the diced onion, 2 T. flour, half of the diced butter, and half of the Cheez Whiz (just plop it on, don't worry about spreading it around). Repeat the layers. Pour the milk around the potatoes. Cover tightly with foil and bake for one hour. Remove the foil, stir the potatoes until well combined, and continue to bake for an additional half hour, or until potatoes are thickened, browned, and bubbly. Serve them to small children and watch them disappear!!
I'm stuffed. Ribs, cheesy potatoes, and sand castle cake.....ugh! I'm done. But before I go, I need to thank my cyberfriend Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks for the fun YumYum Blog Award! Thank you Lisa! I'm going to pass it on tomorrow, but now I have to get my Birthday Girl and her siblings in to the bathtub and off to bed. ;-)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Red Onion & Mint

We're getting back to normal here in the good old 'hood, and it felt great to make a real dinner last night! This is the only picture I got; sorry it's not the best representation of how good the meal actually tasted!

Summertime sometimes equals slacking in the dinner department at our house, and this family needed 'real' food -- not the pool food (popcorn chicken, mini pizzas, and cheeseburgers) we've been munching on since mid-June!

On last night's menu was a fantastic grilled chicken recipe that I love to do in the summer. It has some Greek flavors going on - mint, oregano, and garlic - and it's great paired with a big Greek salad. We also had one of my favorite redskin potato dishes, and although the picture is not that good, these are a standby for me in the summer and people always ask for the recipe! Toasted flatbread finished off the plate.

We shared this meal and a couple of bottles of wine with friends on the patio. We told stories about our friend Brad, and although there were a few tears, it does feel like things are starting to get back to normal in our wonderful neighborhood.
Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Red Onion & Mint
Serves: 4
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 inch pieces (I used thighs and they were excellent)
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. dried mint
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh mint
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
Mix chicken, olive oil, garlic, mint, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Let marinate 30 minutes (** I let mine go for about two hours).
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Pull off the large mint leaves from stems. Alternate chicken, onion, and mint leaves on skewers; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until chicken is just cooked through, turning occasionally, about 9 minutes. Serve alongside a big Greek Salad, Redskin Potatoes with Brown Butter, and Grilled Flatbreads.
Redskin Potatoes with Parsley & Browned Butter
Serves: 4-6
Source: I honestly have no idea but you MUST make these!
1 1/2 lbs. small redskin potatoes
1 very large pinch of chopped Italian parsley
1/2 stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a large skillet and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes can be pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to the same pan. Sprinkle with parsley, and drop the butter onto the potatoes. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook the potatoes for an additional 25 minutes, tossing occasionally, and watching to be sure the butter browns and doesn't burn. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with additional parsley if desired.