Simple & Healthy Ingredients Make For Delicious Mediterranean Style Salad Dressing

So, welcome 2015! 

Like many people who make new year resolutions, eating healthier options of the things I like always tops my list.  I’m always optimistic coming out of the gate but somewhere along the line I start lose my momentum, fall off the wagon, and resort to my old (not so wise) eating habits.  I vow every year that “this year is going to be different”.   And in the end, I’ve only fooled myself into believing that I could forgo delicious sweets, homemade bread, second helpings of my favorite dish of macaroni and cheese, and of course the great wines found here in the Finger Lakes Region and abroad. 

But… In a good faith effort to try try again, I’m sharing a recipe I found at The Pioneer Woman’s blog for a healthy and delicious homemade salad dressing she has named Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing.  I made a couple adaptations to the original recipe.

I decided that Aunt Trish’s dressing has a Mediterranean taste to it – which I love.  It tastes so fresh and healthy, and the fact that there are no preservatives makes it all the better.  I do have to warn you that this recipe makes a considerably small batch.  My suggestion is to double or triple the recipe because I’m sure it will keep well in the fridge for a week or two – if it lasts that long!  At some point you may want to remove the garlic if you don’t want garlic overkill.

Mediterranean Style Salad Dressing ( This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

3/4 c. olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

4 tbsp. of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Pinch of salt & pepper

Dash of paprika

1/2 tsp. honey

2 whole cloves of garlic (peeled and cut in half)

Put all ingredients together in a jar or dressing shaker and shake until mixed.  Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

 

Have you made any new year resolutions?  If so, what are they?  Do you think you’ll stick to them?

Advertisements

Healthy & Homemade Butternut Squash Soup

Every year, for many years, I have broke a promise to myself and it all has to do with soup.  Yes, I said it all has to do with soup.

You see, each year I have told myself that this is the year I’m going to make Homemade Butternut Squash Soup.  But then I never do make the soup and there has never been a good reason for it either.  Just lame excuses.

This year, I finally kept my word to myself and made the most delicious and healthy soup imaginable.  I now realize that all that procrastination was crazy.  The most time consuming part of making this soup is the peeling and cubing of the squash – which I enlisted my hubby to help me with.  If you want to speed this soup making process up a bit then I suggest purchasing the squash already peeled and cubed from the vegetable section of your favorite supermarket.

This soup recipe fits my tastes and expectations perfectly.  There was no disappointments and I’m adding it to my tried-and-true recipes in hopes that I’ll make it for many more years to come.  If you try this recipe please let me know what you think of it.

Homemade Butternut Squash Soup

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. butter (or margarine)

1 small onion, diced

1/2 c. diced carrot

4 cups of peeled and cubed butternut squash

4 c. chicken broth (or vegetable)

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. skim milk

1/4 c. half & half

Salt & pepper to taste

In a large pot, melt butter and oil on low heat.  Add onions and cook until tender.  Once onions are cooked, add carrots, squash, and broth.  Cover; bring to a boil until vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat and puree the mixture.  Return to low heat and stir in milk, half & half, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt & pepper to taste.  Do not bring to a boil.   

This soup makes a great appetizer or entrée.  I served it as an entrée with a salad and homemade Almost Texas Roadhouse Rolls that I’ll be sharing with you in a future post.  

Although the ingredients are different, this soup reminds me of Panera’s Vegetarian Autumn Squash Soup – yum!

What is your favorite soup recipe?

Simple Sunday Morning Breakfast–Fill Your Bellies; Warm Your House

 

I suppose it was to be expected.  Cold temperatures and snow flurries have intruded upon those of us that live in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.  I’ve switched to wearing boots and a warmer jacket when I venture out.

But what about inside?  This morning our house was cooler than it has been and I was eager to get a fresh pot of coffee brewing.  And while the coffee warmed my soul and awakened me, it didn’t help warm the house.   Yes, I could have turned up the heat, but I had a much better idea like making breakfast in the oven.

With a plan in mind, I turned on the oven and started by raiding the fridge.  I came up with lot’s of healthy veggies, my favorite cheese -Jarlsberg Lite, low-fat ham, and of course our farm fresh eggs.  You can see where this is going can’t you?  All the fixings for a delicious frittata!

Making a frittata does not require a recipe or an exact science.  It’s more about adding a variety of your favorite ingredients. or those ingredients that you happen to have on hand at the time.

Here is how simple it is:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • Grease a pie pan with non-stick cooking spray
  • Beat (4) large eggs in a large mixing bowl
  • Add 1 cup of milk to the eggs (I used skim)
  • Add diced veggies, grated cheese, and cooked meat to the egg and milk mixture (I added onion, red pepper, spinach, ham, mushrooms, and Jarlsberg to mine frittata)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Top with a little more grated cheese
  • Bake until the frittata is firm and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes before cutting

I opted to go for a crust less quiche for a couple simple reasons.  Less calories and  less fat.

This is a perfect dish to prepare in advance if you are having overnight guests. Think about the holidays that are fast approaching.  

What ingredients would go in your favorite frittata?

Cooking Light Carrot-Cake Bars

The idea of baking lighter treats appeals to me, and there was a time many years ago, when I was in the habit of using egg whites and applesauce every time that I would bake a cake, quick breads, etc.

My how times have changed… 

While shopping my most favorite thrift store recently, I stumbled across a Cooking Light cookbook for a quarter.  I know, what a bargain! This cookbook has every recipe from the year 1999 that was featured in the Cooking Light magazine so I snatched it up and figured maybe it’s time I get back on the light wagon. 

The recipe for Carrot-Cake Bars is one of many that caught my eye in my new used cookbook.

These bars turned out moist, tender, definitely not oil laden, and delicious.  Yea!  I did make a few slight changes to the original recipe.  First, I used all-purpose flour in place of the whole-wheat flour the recipe called for.  I also used 3/4 cup of sour milk (made with skim milk) instead of the buttermilk, and I skipped adding the raisins.  I think not adding the raisins was a mistake.  While I am not a raisin lover, I do think they add a nice subtle flavor to your treats.  And lastly, I used only 1 cup of old-fashioned oatmeal which I think this was a good move.  Below I’m sharing the original recipe with you.  So feel free to go with it, or make your own modifications.

Carrot-Cake Bars from Cooking Light (Original Recipe)

2/3 c. packed brown sugar

2 tbsp. margarine or butter, softened

3/4 c. low-fat buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large egg whites

3/4 c. whole wheat flour

1 1/2 c. regular oats

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. shredded carrots

1/2 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 11×7 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Beat sugar and margarine until blended.  Add buttermilk, vanilla, and egg whites; beat well.  Add flour and next 5 ingredients; mixing until combined.  Stir in carrots and raisins.  Pour batter into a prepared baking dish.  Bake for approximately 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Cool in pan and serve.

According to the Cooking Light Cookbook, these bars (original recipe) have 121 calories, 2.3 grams of fat, 3.1 grams of protein, 23.3 carbs, 2 grams of fiber, and 138 mg of sodium.   I added a few calories to my bars because I drizzled a thin buttercream icing on top.  Shame on me I know.  But look at the calories I saved elsewhere.

Do you like baking and cooking light?  Or do you say –  Ah, what’s the sense?

Making Your Own Dill Pickles

I have been a pickle making fool this year.  And I am sure there are some of you that are probably thinking that you could never preserve pickles.  Maybe, you’re even slightly intimidated by the thought.  But I’m here to tell you there is nothing to fear.  I decided to create this post in the simplest terms to show you how easy it is to make your own homemade dill pickles.  I figure these pictures and short instructions might help take away any apprehensions you might have. 

For those of you who have never canned before, you will need a canner or very large pot that you can immerse your jars in when it comes time to put them in the water-bath.  We will get to all of that in a minute.

This recipe is nice because you can make 1 quart of pickles or 6 quarts of pickles at a time (or however many your canner will accommodate).  The recipe is from my Better Homes and Garden (Red & White Checked) Cookbook. Page 147 in my book.

The ingredients needed for this recipe are per quart; not per batch.

5-6 cucumbers (the recipe suggests 4” long)

2 Tbsp. dill seed

1 tsp. mustard seed

1 3/4 c. water

3/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. pickling salt

* I added one clove of peeled garlic to the jar of some of my pickles.  It gives them a mild garlic dill taste.

So, are you ready?  Here we go!

1.) Rinse cucumbers and then soak them in very cold water.  *It should be noted that a lot of recipes call for pickling cucumbers only.  I’ve used several varieties in my canning adventures and haven’t had any trouble doing so,  but there is a first time for everything.  It is also best if you use smaller cucumbers (in diameter) because they are less bitter and seedy.

2.) Wash the jars and screw bands that you intend to use in hot soapy water; rinse thoroughly and then place them upside down on a clean dish towel.  Put (new) lids in very hot water and set aside. Don’t cheap out and reuse old lids because you will risk them not sealing properly when you put them in the water-bath.

3.) Prepare the seasoning by measuring out the mustard seed and dill seed for each quart individually; then place it in each jar.

4.) After placing the spices in each jar, measure out the ingredients (salt, vinegar and water) for the brine and place it into a large stock pot.  This brine will later be brought to a full boil.

5.)  Remove cucumbers from the cold water and dry them off.  Slice each cucumber in half – length wise, or quarter each one length wise if they are a little larger in diameter.  I put all of the odd sized pieces in one jar and can them too.

6.)  Fill a canner with enough water to cover the lid of each jar you intend to process.  Start heating the water on high heat.

7.)  Loosely pack each jar with the sliced cucumbers leaving at least a 1/2 inch of headspace at the top.

8.) ,Bring brine to full boil.

9.)  Ladle the boiled brine into each jar and cover the cucumbers, again leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top.

10.)  Wipe the edge of each jar rim with a hot clean cloth and secure the lid and band.

11.)  When all of the jars are ready, lower them into the canner. 

12.)  When the water in the (covered) canner starts to boil rapidly, boil the jars for 15 minutes.

13.)  Once the boiling is complete, move the jars of pickles to a cutting board or something that will withstand hot temperatures.  I suggest using canning tongs that are designed for lifting the jars out of the canner.  These jars will be extremely hot so be careful.

14.)  Allow jars to cool at room temperature.  The lids will start popping when the seal is made.  This is a good thing!  To make sure each jar has properly sealed check them by feeling for an indentation in the center of the lid.  If the lid is firm then the jar is sealed.  If there is any play in the lid when it is pushed on then the jar is not sealed properly and it will not be safe to store on the shelf.

The pickles should set in the jar for 1 week before you open and eat them.  These pickles are crunchy and have a nice (not overpowering) dill flavor.  That’s probably why I’ve made three batches so far.

Have you ever canned before?  Are you comfortable or intimidated by it?  Or, is Vlasic your friend?

Orange and a Little Bit of Red

I was in the mood for orange.  Orange is one of my favorite colors.  Right up there with the colors red and pink.  And since I haven’t spent a lot of time with my camera lately (and felt a little guilty about it) I decided to spend some quality time with it.

These sweet little Mandarin oranges (and a few strawberries) assisted me in this photography adventure.  They make life so much brighter.

 

I would love it if you’d share your favorite photo on Pinterest.  Happy Orange (and a little bit of red) Day!