Monday, April 30, 2012

Lebanese Couscous Salad and Feta Hummus

Last year, while leaving Louisville, KY, and heading north towards home, I happened to stop by a small Italian gourmet grocery store, Lotsa Pasta Louisville.  There are no true words to describe this little gem.  It is filled with all sorts of yumminess, from stuffed baby eggplant to fresh made pasta of every sort to aromatic baked bread to canned delicacies too many to name.  I cannot encourage you enough to stop by.  I never get out of this grocery without a cartload of goodies I am sure that I need in my kitchen.  So it was on this trip that I came across Lebanese couscous, which was without a doubt the largest sized couscous I had ever seen.  Tossing it in my cart, I thought that for sure I could come up with something delicious to make out of it.  Once I got home, I was overcome with a reluctance to use it in any recipe.  The grains seemed overly large.  I was not sure how to cook it and afraid it would be tough or worse burnt to the point of fire alarm in the kitchen ringing in my attempt to make it soft enough to use.  So it sat and sat and sat on my pantry shelf.  Finally, I figured it was time to screw up my courage, shake a leg, and experiment.  Sometimes, perfection can be paralyzing, which is a cooking issue many of us deal with when it comes to trying something new in the kitchen.  So we must remind ourselves that good or bad, playing with new ingredients in the kitchen should be filled with joy and laughter and curiosity.  So in that vein, I made my mistakes with Lebanese couscous, but I also found some delicious food when I figured it out!   Hence, Lebanese Couscous Salad, which is filled with all sorts of delicious ingredients.

The Lebanese Couscous for Dummies goes like this:   Lebanese couscous is a mainstay of this salad and is unlike any couscous you have probably eaten in the past.  Unlike its cousins, the Tunisian or Moroccan couscous, which are small and fluffy, the Lebanese couscous has grains which are quite large.  Spring pea size!  Think of couscous as a baby pasta, as it is made from Semolina flour, which comes from Duram Wheat.  Couscous tastes wonderful in side salads, soups, replacement for rice, and as a breakfast cereal.  It is extremely versatile. In today's grocery story, it is also relatively inexpensive and easily found.

Lebanese Couscous Salad

1 and 1/3 cup Lebanese Couscous
1 and 3/4 cup water
3 green onions sliced
3.5 oz jar of sour cocktail onions
7.5 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
handful of baby carrots, sliced
1 cup of mixture of olives, sliced
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

1.  In a rice maker, place the couscous and water.  Cook until soft.  Fluff with a fork and place in a medium size bowl.

2.  Add green onions, cocktail onions, artichoke hearts, baby carrots, olives, and sunflower seeds.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice.  Pour over couscous mixtures, and gently mix to combine.

4.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!
Lebanese Couscous Salad

Now if you really want a delicious meal, combine your couscous salad with Feta Hummus and mini pita bread.

Feta and Olive Hummus

2 cans garbanzo beans
1 cup variety of olives
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 tablespoon tahini
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor, combine garbanzo beans, olives, feta cheese and tahini, pulse several times to chop ingredients.

Now begin processing ingredients.  While the food processor is processing, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream.  Continue processing until the hummus is smooth and shiny.

Transfer to a pretty bowl.  Place on platter with mini pita breads and lemon or lime slices for dipping.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Himalayan Cinnamon-Berry Coffee Cake

Wowza, did you ever just have an idea of what would constitute the perfect coffee cake on an early spring Saturday morning?  Yeah, well, yesterday, I looked through my fridge and found a bag full of the ripest, sweetest strawberries that we have enjoyed so far this season and a package of blackberries that were simply ginormous.  So off to the counter I went to create a coffee cake that is moist and healthy and filled with all sorts of sweet tasting, good for you ingredients.  This is definitely a keeper in our home.  In fact, I just snuck down to the kitch for a quickie snack before we leave for Mass this evening and low and behold that is all that was left:  a small piece about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch.  A morsel, really.  Quite depressing......  Guess I will have to make another one soon!

Himalayan Cinnamon-Berry Coffee Cake

Coffee Cake
1 and 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
2/3 cups olive oil
1 :Meyer lemon, juiced to about 1/4 cup
1 cup raw sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
2 and 1/2 cups white all purpose flour
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 and 1/2 teaspoons Himalayan cinnamon
 4 and 1/2 cups assorted washed berries (please slice strawberries)

1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons Himalayan cinnamon


1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Lightly grease two 8x8 inch or one 9x13 inch baking pan with baking spray.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla extract til smooth and glossy.

4.  In a large bowl, mix together gently flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon.  Add berries and gently fold into flour mixture to combine well and coat berries with flour.  Make a well in the center of the flour and berry mixture.  Pour in all at once the liquid folding gently to moisten and combine the mixture til a nice batter consistency is obtained.

5.  Pour batter into the one large baking sheet or evenly into the two small baking sheet.  I prefer to make two cakes so that I have one for our family and one to give away to a friend in need of a little TLC.

6.  Combine brown sugar, melted butter, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Drop onto the cake batter evenly around the cake top.

7.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes until tester comes out clean and cake is nice and brown on top.  Let the cake cool before slicing into it.  Enjoy utter deliciousness!!

Servings: 15-20 depending on size of slices
Cost:  $0.50 per slice approximate

Simple Tomato Salsa

Sometimes, the freshest and simplest recipes taste the best.  Once you have had simple tomato salsa, or better known as pico de gallo to some, you simple cannot go back to the" jarred, cooked" stuff unless under duress!

Simply chop finely:  2 tomatoes

a handful of green onions

a jalapeno.

Add salt and pepper

and 1/4 cup olive oil.

Stir to combine.

Enjoy a little bit of heaven on earth!!
Simple Tomato Salsa with Homemade Tortilla Chips!

Now if you want over the top scrumptiousness, do this:

Heat an inch of canola oil in a 10 inch skillet.

Take one corn tortilla at a time, set in the heated oil and cook until crisp (about 1-2 minutes). Drain.
You now have homemade tortilla chips by breaking them into bite size pieces.

Perfect Vegetarian Enchiladas

Back in the early 1980s, my brother-in-law married a lovely lady from Mexico.  She is a beautiful, real deal Aztec descent Mexican wonder who can make Mexican food like no other.  Now keep in mind that back in the day, the only "real" Mexican food those of us living in good ole' Midwest USA had available to us was Taco Bell and their unknown at that time "pink slime".   So when dear sister-in-law started making real Mexican food, all of us realized exactly what we had been missing thinking "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" was the real deal.  So began my quest for "real" Mexican food.  Hence, Perfect Vegetarian Enchiladas.  Quite frankly, my family will attest that these are indeed perfect enchiladas.

Perfect Vegetarian Enchiladas

The Sauce
1/4 jalapeno, diced (amount of seeds included will determine the "heat" of the enchilada sauce)
1/4 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Tablespoons white flour
2 cans (10 oz each) red enchilada sauce, mild
10 oz vegetable broth

The Stuffing
1 can (16 oz) refried beans
1 can (4.5 oz) green chilies, chopped
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 large green onions, sliced

Tortilla Shells
12-14 tortilla shells
canola oil for frying
1 small can sliced black olives
1 cup sliced green olives
3 large green onions, sliced


The Sauce
1.  In 2 tablespoons canola oil saute white onion, jalapeno, and garlic til soft and aromatic.
2.  Add 2 tablespoons flour and stir to mix.
3,  Add 2 cans red enchilada sauce and 10 oz of vegetable broth.
4.  Bring to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat and gently simmer while putting together the stuffing and prepping the tortilla shells.

The Stuffing
1.  In a medium size bowl combine refried beans, green chilies, sour cream, 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and 4 sliced green onions.

Tortilla Shells
1.  Heat canola oil for frying over medium heat..
2.  Lightly fry each tortilla shell in the oil, one at a time, for approximately 20-30 seconds.  Do not fry the shells until they are crisp.  The shells need to be warm and just soft.  Heat all of the tortilla shells in this manner.  Drain on paper towels.
Be prepared for a very messy kitchen after the assembling.  This is not a recipe for the faint of heart!

1.  Lightly spray a 9x13 inch pan with Pam.
2. Work with one tortilla at a time.  Dip the tortilla in the warm enchilada sauce
3. Place the dipped  tortilla on a cutting board or cookie sheet.  Layer onto the tortilla shell:  1 tablespoon bean stuffing, a couple of sliced black olives, a couple of sliced green onions, a sprinkling of shredded cheese.
4.  Roll up the tortilla to keep the bean stuffing and accoutrements inside.  Gently, being careful not to loose any of the delicious bean filling out of each end, lay the prepared enchilada in the prepared pan, side by side.
5.  Repeat steps 2-4 for each prepared tortilla shell.
6.  Cover the top of each enchilada with the remaining enchilada sauce, green olives, 3 sliced green onions, and shredded cheese.
7.  Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, and homemade tortilla chips.  Enjoy!

Serves:  4-6
Cost per Serving: $2.00

Emma's Blueberry Muffins with a Twist

Friday night has turned into baking night around this kitchen.  Last night it was Blueberry Muffins with a twist.  Emma, dear dog, was sure to oversee the kitchen happenings.  She even offered to stir the batter and lick the spoon.  For sanitation purposes, we decided to relegate her to the kitchen bench.

With dear dog forbidden at the counter, dear daughter offered to lend a helping "clean" hand to the batter stirring and spoon licking.
Today's blueberry muffin recipe is a new concoction of deliciousness.  Blueberries with a hint of orange and a whiff of vanilla.  I woke this morning to find most of them gone.  Luckily, I hid a few to give to dear bro when we visit with him later this morning and a couple set aside for my personal enjoyment with a cup of tea at bedtime tonight.  Yeah, I probably should have shared all, but hey, most of us moms are sneaky to some extent when it comes to our kitchens......

Emma's Blueberry Muffins with a Twist
2 and 1/4 cups white, all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar, plus a little more to sprinkle atop muffins before baking
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups blueberries
2 Clementine confites, diced (see link/recipe below) or 1/4 cup diced candied orange peel 
1 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 cup milk
1/3 cup Canola oil
1 egg, slightly beaten

1.  Clementine confites recipe can be found at Clementine Confites and take approximately 14 days to make.  You may substitute candied orange peel diced (about 1/4 cup).
The clementine confit looks like this and is pure deliciousness!

Be sure to dice them, peel and all, in small pieces.

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
3.  In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in blueberries and gently fold to coat each berry with the flour mixture.
4.  In a small bowl, combine the milk, oil, egg, and Clementine Confites mixing well with a fork.
5.  After making a well in the flour mixture, pour liquid into the well all at once.  Stir with a fork quickly until dry ingredients are just moistened.  The batter should be lumpy.  DO NOT OVERSTIR!

6.  Butter muffin tin or place cute little paper muffin cups into the tin.  Spoon batter into the muffin tin.  Sprinkle tops of pre-baked muffins with a little white sugar.  
7.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown in color.  Enjoy!

Servings:  12
Cost per Serving:  $0.60

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mexican Potato Egg Burrito

Dear Son talked me into going through a Taco Bell drive-by.  Praying that what ever we ordered would not include the "Pink Slime" (  We ordered the Cheesy Potato Burritos filled with fried potatoes, processed cheese, beans substituted for ground pink slime beef, and tortilla shell to wrap it all up in.  Yeah, I could do better!

So I took some of these:
And some of these:
And some of this:
Dear Dog felt it necessary to keep tabs on how things were progressing...
Voila, Mexican Potato Egg Burrito!  We had them for supper, but good anytime of the day!
Mexican Potato Egg Burrito

4 small potatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
4-6 eggs Allow at least one egg per serving.
1 Tablespoon Half and Half
1 cup shredded Mexican Cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 flour tortilla shells
Salt and Pepper to taste

1.  Fry potatoes and onion in olive oil until they are brown and soft.  Season to taste.   Set aside on low to keep warm.

2.  Whisk eggs in a small bowl.  Whisk Half and Half into eggs to mix thoroughly. Scramble eggs in nonstick skillet until cooked through.  Season to taste.

3.  Heat 4-6 flour tortilla shells between two damp paper towels in microwave for 45 seconds to warm.

4.  Now it is time to put it all together.  Take a flour tortilla and place a good spoonful in the center.  Add a large spoonful of scrambled eggs and a good scoop of shredded cheese.  If you have any extra goodies in the fridge, guacamole or salsa or sour cream, you can toss these in the tortilla as well.  Roll up tortilla to keep the goodness in until you are ready to eat them.  To learn more than you ever wanted to know about rolling a burrito, check out this website:


Servings:  4-6
Cost:  $1.25 per serving

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sunshine Salad

As spring is upon us in the Midwest, I am finding dear family is not wanting to eat same ole, same ole.  The heaviness of winter dishes is getting tiresome.  We have begun craving lighter, more colorful, less cooked foods at mealtimes.  One evening, thinking salad, but not the usual lettuce and Ranch affair, which I can usual get down the fam's gullet, I hit upon Sunshine Salad.  A delicious concoction of winter and early spring veggies in a light, white wine salad dressing.

Now let me tell you about the wine.  We moved into our new home a mere 22 months ago.  It seems every time we invite someone over for dinner, they bring a bottle of wine as a housewarming gift.  No reassurance that the home is warm enough given how long we have now lived in it seems to give anyone pause that we might have plenty of wine in the house.  (Hold on there.  Can you ever have too much wine?  I think not....)  So it was as I stood at my kitchen counter with this wonderful mix of bright colored veggies, that I wondered what might I use as a dressing that would allow the colors to show forth, but provide a depth of flavor to them.  Then I thought of a white wine dressing that I use to make to go on our summer salad and voila; I needed a bottle of white wine immediately.  So I head down to the mancave, where Dear Hubby insists is the best place to keep the wine.  I look at bottle after bottle of every color wine imaginable and finally hit upon a beautiful, ornate fonted wine label with a white wine in the bottle.  Head upstairs and let the magic happen.  As we are all eating this truly delectable dinner, Dear Hubby asks what is in the dressing.  I tell him white wine and a few other ingredients.  He asks which of the many bottles of wine did I use.  I go to the fridge, pull out this delicious, not too sweet and not too tart bottle of yumminess.  Dear Hubby's face goes white as he explains, "You used the $100 bottle of wine from France that I received as a 45th birthday gift?"  Yeah, evidently, Dear Hubby had gotten the gift from a close friend for his birthday FIVE years ago and had kept it squirreled away (Don't you just love that phrase.  I can imagine little squirrels sitting in their holes in the trees chatting about their larders and what they had tucked away in various holes and under rocks and such....).  Yes, Dear Hubby had squirreled it away for a special occasion.  Well I say life is a special occasion so why not use the best wine available, besides that wine brought my salad dressing to a new level of deliciousness.

Wine not withstanding, you are gonna love this salad.  Pretty and delicious!

Sunshine Salad

Salad Ingredients:
1/2 head red cabbage, sliced thinly
1 bunch broccoli, florets separated and part of the stalk sliced thinly
2 apples, cored and diced
3 large carrots, sliced thinly
4-5 green onions, sliced thinly
Salt and Pepper to taste

White Wine Salad Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 cup white wine, use the best you have unless it is part of Big Daddy Squirrel's Larder
1/4 cup white basalmic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large bowl, combine prepared veggies, mixing gently.

In a small bowl, combine white wine salad dressing ingredients with a wire whisk.

Pour salad dressing over veggies and toss gently.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Serves 4-6
Cost per Serving:  Depends on the wine!

Meyer Lemon Marmalade Breakfast Bars

Hungry Tigress ( and Hitchhiking to Heaven ( turned me on to the Meyer lemon a few years back.  A cross between lemons and Mandarin Oranges, Meyer lemons taste sweet and "floral" with a hint of orange.  Truly a delectable fruit.
Froggy taking a zen moment contemplating the deliciousness of meyer lemons....
So it was this week-end that my kids wanted a yummy breakfast bar one morning.  When the kids beckon, I start lookin' in the pantry for what I might find to make up some scrumtiousness....
What resulted was a scrumptious, yumptious, good for the body breakfast bar!

Meyer Lemon Marmalade Breakfast Bars

2 tablesponns flaxseed meal
3/4 cup ground up All Bran cereal
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
1/2 cup oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoon of vanilla

1 1/2 cup meyer lemon marmalade


Pre-preparation: If you want an easy way to ground up your All Bran cereal, take a look at this little gadget.
1.  Gently mix in a large bowl the flaxseed meal, All Bran cereal, whole wheat flour, white flour, oats, brown sugar, backing powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2.  Add vanilla to dry mixture.

3.  Using a pastry fork or your fingers to incorporate, add the butter pieces a handful at a time.
Flour mixture and butter combined with pastry fork.

4.  Press half of the crumb mixture at a time into a Pam sprayed 8x8 baking dish.

5.  Pour the meyer lemon marmalade over the top and gently spread to cover the crumb mixture.
Meyer lemon marmalade spread over the top of crumb mixture.

6.  Add the remaining crumb mixture to top the marmalade layer.  Gently press down with your fingertips to bind the layers.

7.  Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 20 minutes.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vegetarian N'awlins Red Beans and Rice

February, 2010, Indianapolis, Indiana, was hit with the worst freezing rain storm in our history.  The storm hit Monday morning.  Dear Hubby and I were scheduled to fly out for New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon for a convention Hubby would be speaking at that week.  In the best of weather, I am not the best of fliers.  There is just something about sitting in a thin metal tube at 35,000 feet which does not instill the greatest confidence in me.  Naturally, I was less than enthused to be heading out on a tarmac with 5 inches of ice sitting on it.  Fortunately, our flight was delayed to 9:00am Wednesday morning on the only airline flying out of Indy that morning.  Due to the delay, we were rerouted to Detroit, then grabbed a delayed connecting to Memphis, and finally landed ten weary hours after our initial take-off in New Orleans.  It was with great relief that we headed to the hotel and snuggled into bed.  Lying in bed, saying prayers for my children and family members left in Indy, I heard the sound of "ping, ping, ping" hitting against the window of the hotel.  Yes, it was freezing rain.

What does this have to do with red beans and rice you might be thinking?  Well, New Orleans had one of their worst cold spells of their winter during our week stay that trip.  Dear Hubby was busy, busy, busy presenting at the conference, which left me to my own frigid devices.  After walking to the nearby mall to buy warm, toasty clothes, I headed out that first day to explore the French Quarter in the wet, cold rain.  Lunch came, yes I am getting to the food part of this story, and I happened upon the most exquisite pub.  Red beans and rice with sweet tea was what I had that afternoon for lunch.  To this day, I can close my eyes and recall how delicious the dish was.  A perfect blend of beans, spices, and ham.  Yeah, this was before my complete conversion to vegetarianism.  If red beans and rice could be called sublime, then this dish would qualify.

Fast forward to an unusually chilly, wet day last week, given the May-like weather we have been blessed with this spring.  Red beans and rice filled the spot, with a vegetarian twist of course.  I have to be honest, I did not miss the ham.  I don't think you will either.  Give it a chance.  You are gonna love this delicious, delectable N'awlins Red Beans and Rice!

Vegetarian N'awlins Red Beans and Rice

1 bag dried red beans
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1 chopped anaheim pepper
2 tablespoons chili pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
2-3 tablespoons Hungarian Paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4-6 cloves chopped garlic, or more or less depending on your preference
4 cups vegetable broth

It is very easy to make this delicious meal.  Begin by soaking dried beans in a bowl of water for at least 3 hours or overnight, depending on your schedule.

This is an important step as it allows the release of gases from the beans and will prevent your having digestive upset after eating this dish.
Now, toss all of the ingredients into your crock pot.  Cook on a high setting for 8-10 hours.  Then take your immersion blender and blend the red beans on low until you have a mostly smooth with some whole red beans, sauce-like texture.  Serve with rice and hot sauce.

Servings:  6-8
Cost per Serving:  $1.20

“The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote, funky file z'herbes, and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po' boy with chowchow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week--yet the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don't eat day and night, if you don't constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, then the mystery beast will go right on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town.” 
― Tom RobbinsJitterbug Perfume

Sunburst Citrus Salad

We are beginning to wonder whether a servant girl hasn't the best of it after all. She knows how the salad tastes without the dressing, and she knows how life's lived before it gets to the parlor door.
Djuna Barnes

Did you ever look at something as simple as a salad and wonder at how striking the colors are?  This little gem of a salad will have you enjoying not only the refreshing taste of your salad, but the sunny, colorful sight of your salad as well.  Early spring is a great time to enjoy citrus as it is considered to still be in season.  So head to your grocer's and grab some oranges and get ready for a delicious, delectable, good for you home-made sunny salad!

Sunburst Citrus Salad

3 navel oranges
2 blood oranges
1/4 cup red cabbage sliced thinly
1/4 cup red onion, minced
2 green onions, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

If you have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say Kool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck.
Jeff Foxworthy
1.  Cut peel and pith away from all of the oranges.  Slice oranges in 1/4 inch pieces.  Deseed the blood oranges.  Gently separate the orange segments.

2.  Combine the oranges, red cabbage, red onion, and green onions.  Toss gently with olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.

3.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4.  Serve alone as a salad or as a relish with salmon.

Servings:  4-6
Cost per Serving:  $1.30