Monday, May 26, 2014

Strawberry-Banana Cheesecake Salad and Not My Mama's Potato Salad

Variations of this recipe for Strawberry Banana Cheesecake salad are floating around on facebook. It is nearly the same as the taffy apple salad I have here on my blog only with a few fruit changes and a different Jell-o pudding. I also used low fat Cool Whip and for the bananas to keep them looking fresh use this tip. As soon as you cut the bananas, put them in a bath of lemon juice. This slows down the oxidizing process. I made my salad a good 5 hours before the family ate it. And it still looked good.

Here's what you need:

Strawberry-Banana Cheesecake

3 bananas cut into slices
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tub of strawberries hulled and sliced
2 cups marshmallows
1 tub fat free Cool-whip
1/4 c. sour cream
1 small package Jell-o cheesecake pudding

Stir the Cool-whip, Jell-o,  and sour cream together in a large bowl add the marshmallows. Remove the bananas from the lemon juice and add to the fluff along with the strawberries. Let sit for 3-5 hours covered in the fridge.

My Mom will tell you she invented potato salad, but this ain't your Mama's potato salad. I can't even look at Mayo without gaining five pounds so I am cutting the fat with some low-fat Daisy sour cream. I am also adding some turkey bacon to the mix. Perfect for a day like today. Just remember to keep your potato salad covered with ice in that cooler of yours or refrigerate up until serving time. It does have eggs in it but those can be omitted and you can go the sour cream route totally. When I go just sour cream alone I like to make "Stuffed" potato salad with bacon bits, scallions, and cheese.

Here's what you need to do to prep:
Cover with water and boil 5-6 medium to large skin on  potatoes-check for doneness beginning at the 25 minute mark. Your knife should be able to go into the potato but there should be some give left. Remove from the water and let them cool.  At the same time boil 3 eggs. Once you see them at the rolling boil stage, set the timer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them rest for 5 minutes more. Then, run cold water over them. Change the water one more time and then off to the fridge to cool. This will make them easier to peel. These eggs were purchased this week putting to rest the myth you need to use old eggs for hard boiled eggs. And look Mom, no dark rings.

Not My Mama's Potato Salad

5-6 medium to large potatoes diced into cubes
3 stalks celery diced
1/2 diced onion
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup Mayo or Miracle Whip
2 TBSP yellow mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 boiled eggs diced
3 slices turkey bacon crumbled (we like them crispy)

Peel the potatoes, dice the celery, and add to a large bowl. Add the Mayo, sour cream, mustard  and eggs. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Mayo likes to soak up into the potato salad, so you may have to add more mayo and seasoning right before serving. Also save the bacon for the last minute or it will get soft.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Best Caramelized Onions Ever for Memorial Day Burgers

I love, love, love, onions! One of my Summer favorites is delicious caramelized onions on top of my burger. These little gems take about 25-30 minutes to make but are so worth it. I start them a little before the burgers go on the grill. Here's how you do it.

Caramelized Onions

3-5 medium onions diced
2 tsp. vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup water

Place the oil in a small frying pan and heat on medium until you see the oil shimmer.  Stir around the onions to make sure they are all coated. Turn the heat to low and stir the onions every few minutes. When you see the pan dry up add just a few TBSP of the water. This prevents the onions from becoming oily and provides some steam action too. Keep on stirring the onions every few minutes and they will begin to brown and become sweet. In the last five minutes, add the vinegar and stir in. These will become darker brown after about 25 minutes. Serve with your favorite burgers.

Ranch Burgers

1 pkg. Hidden Valley ranch Ranch mix
3 lbs hamburger
1 tsp. salt

I use a handy hamburger press I purchased from Bed Bath and Beyond. Add the meat and the Ranch together with the salt. Make sure the mix is incorporated. Press out into 8 1/4 inch patties. Make a thumb print in the middle of each patty. This will prevent shrinkage. Grill on the grill for approx 8 minutes a side or until no longer pink in the middle. Serve with the delicious onions on top.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tequila Lime Chicken and Mango Salsa

I haven't made this one for quite a while but it's so easy, even your hubby can make it.  The salsa comes together in a matter of minutes and the marinade includes one item, Tequila. Perfect as the weather gets warmer.
Tequila Lime Chicken and Mango Salsa

1 Grilled chicken breast per person
1 small airplane sized tequila (2 ounces)
2 TBSP lime juice (or lemon)

Marinate the chicken in the Tequila lime marinade for a few hours in the fridge. Remove from the marinade and grill for approx. 20 minutes on the outdoor grill.

For the salsa: Cut the flesh of two mangos (this also works with any citrus or pineapple)  away from the pit and then cut into bite sized pieces. Add one small diced onion, 1/4 seeded and diced jalapeno, and a handful of chopped cilantro. Add two tablespoons of lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Place on top of the grilled chicken. Serve with your favorite side. We love whole wheat couscous here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dream Dance Steak at Potawatomi Review of Morel Mushroom Dinner

Here is the review I wrote on about my recent win for a dinner of four to Dream Dance Steak. This dinner for four would have cost $85.00 per person but I got it for free along with the wines paired with each of the 5 dishes. 

I entered a contest on the Potawatomi facebook page and ended up winning a table for four at the sold out Morel Mushroom dinner. I had alway wanted to dine here but thought the price point was way out of my league. I also thought that the place would be too fancy for me. It has changed concept in the last few years and become a steak house.  The closest thing I have eaten for fine dining is on the Disney Dream cruise ship and MATC's Cuisine Restaurant. There were people dressed in a wide range of clothes from dressy to casual.  We are just normal everyday people. 

I was so wrong with all of my preconceived notions.  The staff was very welcoming and knowledgable. Our waiter was awesome and made us feel at ease. The chef even came out and spoke to us and he was very personable and down to earth.  Our dinner came with a wine paired with each of the five courses. Our table was initially full of glasses.  The ambiance is perfect for that romantic dinner or a nice dinner with friends.  The price of this special dinner if we would have paid would have been $85.00 a person.  I am not admitting to being cheap but this is way out of our price point. 

Now lets get to the food.  Our first course was a sugar snap pea panna cotta. It came in this cute little mason jar. It had a crispy morel mushroom on it and was delicious. It tasted inbetween creamy avocados and snap peas. There was a crispy contrast with some julienned snap peas on top. 

The second course was a smoked morel pork galantine. This was a type of cold pork sausage on top of a salad with morels. I loved it but we had some picky eaters in my group. I heard that they are making and curing a lot of their own meats in the restaurant. 

Next was a duck consomme that had a rich mushroom broth. There was bits of duck confit in it along with a soft boiled duck egg. Delish! The egg was cracked in the soup and made a creamy broth. 

The fourth course was deconstructed beef Wellington. I was expecting more from this dish. It is a steak house after all and the steak was cooked to perfection but the puff pastry was a small little sliver placed on top. Normally there is a ducksel complete with mushrooms inside the puff pastry but the mushrooms were on the side. Again we didn't have a choice as to how done the steak was. I like medium rare but others in my group did not. 

The dessert was Ricotta Cheesecake with smoky candied hazelnuts and a candied morel. You would have never know there was a mushroom on top. 

Everything was wonderful and although I like sweeter wines, I thought the pairings were good.  I would love to come back and had a wonderful time. This may be reserved for special occasions or if I win in the casino.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Smoked Salmon on the Gas Grill

My hubby recently got a brand spankin new gas grill for his 30th anniversary with the Walgreen company. This last week he found a smoker box on clearance. Right away we knew our first thing to make would be smoked salmon. We love this brand of salmon that comes whole from Woodman's grocery store. It's really inexpensive at under $7.00. A whole smoked fish can sometimes run upwards of $30.00. You can smoke this whole fish for under $9.00. Most of the ingredients you probably have on hand such as brown sugar and sea salt. Here's how we did it. You can also play around with the seasonings to make Cajun spiced or Jamaican Jerk smoked fish.

Note: The longer you let the salt and sugar sit on the fish, the more salty it will be. I don't recommend going longer than 8 hours. For your grill you will need a metal baking pan or just buy a throw away one at the dollar store.

Smoked Salmon

The Rub

The salt will draw all of the moisture out of the fish and with the brown sugar will give you the delicious flavor of smoked salmon.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sea salt
1 TBSP pepper

Mix all the ingredients together. Spread this all over both sides of the salmon. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for 4 hours til overnight. Next rinse the fish completely to remove all of the salt. Otherwise your fish will be very salty.

The Smoking:

Prepare 1 cup of wood chips by soaking them in water. Remove the water and place in the smoking box of our grill or make a tin foil pack with some holes poked on top. Turn only one half of the grill on. Place a foil pan on the side without the heat with about 1/2 inch water in it. On top of the grate, place the salmon and close the grill for 20 minutes. No peeking! The fish should be smoked in 20 minutes. It will flake with a fork when done. Stick in the fridge to cool and enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake

I found this easy to make cake on facebook, Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake. It is made with store bought yellow cake mix and is done in about 40 minutes. My Mom-in-law would have been proud.

Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake

I elected to use a 9x13 pan for this cake but you can make a double layered cake with two round cake pans.

6 bananas sliced
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter diced
1 1/2 cup dried coconut
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/4 sour cream
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized pan add the brown sugar and butter and stir until the butter is all melted. Remove from the the heat and slice the bananas. Add the bananas to a buttered 9x13 baking dish. Spread the coconut over the bananas and then the brown sugar sauce over the bananas. Mix the cake mix and the next ingredients. Pour over the brown sugar sauce and make sure it's evenly spread out. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  The top will be really brown. Let sit for 5 minutes and place a baking sheet over the cake. With oven mitted hands, flip over the cake and it should release. Serve warm with your favorite vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Special Breakfast Day and Mother's Day Together

Every Sunday we have "Special Breakfast Day." It's the one day we can all get together and eat at the same table for the most part. This is a meal I threw together in a very short time and we have it all of the time. I am sure it will be one of your favorites too. Biscuits and gravy is so easy to make that even your husband can make it!!

Biscuits and Gravy (makes 6 servings)

This is more about the gravy. We cheat sometimes and use the store bought ones. Shhh! Don't tell!

Sausage Gravy

1/2 roll of Farmland mild sausage(freeze the other half for next time)
1/4 c. flour
2 cups non fat milk or milk of your choice
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Brown the sausage and remove to a paper plate. Save the oil left over and brown the flour for about 3 minutes or until it takes on a sandy brown color. Add the milk and stir with a whisk. Don't leave it or it will lump. If you notice the gravy is getting too thick, add about 1/4 cup water and keep stirring. Add the sausage back in and season with salt and pepper. This cooks up pretty quick so I put the biscuits in at the same time. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

Thank goodness the school year is winding down! Just under three more weeks of school. I still rely a lot on the crock pot though as I don't get home from work until after 6PM. Yesterday I made a semi-homemade version of crock pot Chicken Cacciatore. I used frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts but you could just as well use bone in chicken. I also used a store bought spaghetti sauce but you can also use a large can of regular crushed tomatoes for the sauce. If you have it, use it! Also the choice of side is up to you. This goes just as good over egg noodles as it does over rice.

Crock pot Chicken Cacciatore

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 jar Barilla pasta sauce or
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/2 green onion diced
1/2 onion diced
4 ounces white mushrooms cut into slices
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp. dried Oregano
salt and pepper

Add all of the ingredients to the crock pot. I made mine with frozen chicken breasts and cooked for about 41/2 hours on high. Or, you could let it cook all day on low. Before serving remove the chicken and cut into bite sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper and serve over noodles or rice.