Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Brunch...Who Needs IHOP?

Well, it is a gorgeous Saturday morning here...a bit cooler than it has been this past week.  We actually got a little bit of rain last night that helped drop our pollen down to 989 (from yesterday's 1,275).  While I write this post, it is only 66 degrees at noon time.  I woke up feeling well rested and refreshed this morning....for a change!  I decided to make us brunch since we didn't eat until about 10:30.  I made hubby and I a big omelet (that we shared) with red, orange and yellow peppers and cheddar cheese, along with turkey sausage links and hash brown potatoes since it will serve as both our breakfast and lunch today.  I have really enjoyed incorporating these beautiful and colorful peppers I picked up at Costco last week into the numerous meals that I made this past week.  I decided to squeak them into one more meal with our Saturday morning brunch.  Who needs IHOP for breakfast...not us!  Check out a few pics below.

Starting with the red, yellow and orange peppers, sliced and waiting to hop into the omelet
The hash browns, turkey sausage and eggs
Hash browns are browning nicely in some olive oil

Peppers are sauteed and waiting for the eggs to join them
Pouring the scrambled eggs over the peppers
Sprinkled with shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pizza Night...Make Your Own!

Tonight, is make your own pizza night and youngest son is having dinner with us again -- twice in 1 week -- I feel eXtra special!  I chopped a variety of beautiful ingredients so we could pick and choose what to put on our pizzas...check out the beautiful colors below!  We are using Publix fresh pizza dough.  You won't find any fresher ingredients than these...unless of course you pick them from your own garden!  I used to have a big and bountiful garden...I really miss it.  Enjoy the colors!

Aren't the colors beautiful?
One last look at the veggie rainbow
Red, orange and yellow peppers; mushrooms, Kalamata olives; artichoke hearts; pepperoni
The Last....BOOM!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Some Interesting Food Finds...

One of my favorite things to do when I shop for food is to look for "new items"...sometimes they aren't really new...but they might simply be new to me.  Below are a few items I picked up at Costco this past weekend and thought I'd share with you.  I mentioned Saturday that I had finally bought some Kerrygold "Dubliner" cheese that I had wanted to try.  I had some for a snack on Sunday afternoon, along with some interesting crackers that I had stumbled upon as well.  For me, there are the kind of crackers that are good to eat "as is" as well as with something on them....say, Ritz or Triscuit, for example...but sometimes you want a cracker that is simply something to hold the topping you put on them -- you don't necessarily want to taste the cracker, you want whatever you put on it to be the "star".  Well, I found just such a cracker.  I don't find these particularly tasty to eat by themselves...they don't have much of a taste, but they do provide you a "platform"...a thin crisp little wafer to hold whatever you choose to put on them and they don't compete with your topping.  The best part about these crackers (that are slightly larger around than a Ritz cracker), is that they have only 35 calories for 9 crackers!  I would definitely buy them again...not to eat "as is"...but to add a nice little crunch to whatever I placed on them.  Since I had just purchased the Dubliner cheese, I wanted just such a platform -- I wanted to taste the cheese, not the cracker.  I didn't want anything to distract or take away from the flavor of the cheese, just something to be the backdrop and provide the little bit of crunch that I like.  They are called "34 Whole Grain Crispbread".  Below are a few pictures I'll share with you.

"34 Whole Grain Crispbread" & "Kerrygold's Dubliner cheese"
Here is the front of the box is a close up of both the cheese and the crackers
Check out the label...9 cracker are only 35 calories!
I actually liked both of these new food finds...I personally probably wouldn't eat the crackers by themselves...not because they taste bad, but they just don't really taste like much.  They are, however, awesome for highlighting whatever you choose to put on top of them.  I'm thinking that chicken salad, tuna salad, peanut butter, etc. would be awesome on them, in addition to any of your favorite cheeses.  Oh, and the Dubliner cheese is really has a slightly different flavor than any other kind of cheddar I have had before.  Kerrygold also makes another good cheese that we have found at Costco as's called Skellig and it is a type of white cheddar cheese.  The Irish are well known for their Irish butter and cheeses.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rigatoni w/ Tri-color Peppers & Chicken

Monday night, my youngest son came over to have dinner with me.  Hubby had another engagement so it was just sonny boy and I.  The good thing about that was...I had all these colorful peppers that I bought at Costco Saturday (red, yellow and orange) and sonny boy LOVES peppers (hubby, not so much).  So, I took full advantage of the situation and decided to make whole wheat rigatoni using all 3 different colors of peppers, along with some boneless chicken breast that I diced and quickly sauteed with the peppers in olive oil.  I added a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little heat, some sea salt, black pepper and then tossed the pasta along with the chicken and peppers with some Classico sun-dried tomato pesto.  It adds a lot of flavor without adding a lot of sauce, more of a light coating.  I love the taste of it. It was a simple, rustic meal with loads of flavor.  I also used this as an opportunity to break out my new wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano and grate it on top of the pasta.  I have always wanted to try it but didn't want to pay the steep price.  But, when I found a very small wedge at Costco a couple of weeks ago for $12.00, I thought I'd try it.  I really liked has a bit stronger taste than regular Parmesan.  I snapped a few pics of this simple, quick and delicious meal.  What made the meal even more special was I got to spend some time with my favorite youngest son...that is always a good thing!  Also, he got to try my strawberry shortcake that I made on Sunday...yummy!  Oh, and before I get into any unintended trouble here...I also have a favorite daughter and a favorite oldest son, as well as a favorite "oldest son's girlfriend"...that's the great thing about actually can have more than one favorite!  :-)  Below are a few pics of our meal.  Enjoy!

Beautiful red, yellow and orange peppers
Parmigiano Reggiano
Love this Classico Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
Here, take a closer look

P.S. -- In case you are interested in reading a little history about Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, below is some information I found and copied for you to read and one more picture.

Here is a picture of the rind with the "pin dot" stamp

An Italian Masterpiece

Parmigiano Reggiano has been made for centuries in one area of Northern Italy, the rolling hills and green pastures comprising Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and portions of Bologna and Mantua. Only there are the conditions ideal—a combination of rich countryside and cool climate—to produce the only cheese in the world that can be called Parmigiano Reggiano. Typical of this region steeped in food culture and tradition, the cheese is made in small batches using artisan methods, often passed down through families from generation to generation.

For true cheese lovers, there are few experiences that match the pleasure of savoring a perfectly aged, fresh-cut sliver of Parmigiano Reggiano. One of the three or four incomparable cheeses of the world, this is the pride of an Italian food tradition dating back almost 800 years. Crafted by artisans, carefully aged and cared for, each wheel is not only an expression of the cheese maker's dedication but of the culinary history of the region itself.

The Story of Parmigiano Reggiano

Each wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano carries proof of its authenticity. During production, the future rind is impressed with the number of the "caseificio" or cheese house, production date and pin dots forming the words "Parmigiano Reggiano." The pin dots guarantee that the cheese was made under regulation of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano, conforming to its stringent standards of quality.

After one year of aging, each wheel that passes the test is branded with an oval certification mark and left to finish aging. Almost every piece we cut includes part of the marked rind, so you can verify it is Parmigiano Reggiano!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake...Oh, Boy!

Well, Sunday night we had leftover Chicken & Spinach Manicotti...and it was delicious.  Since I got the night off cooking dinner, I decided to put the beautiful strawberries I picked up Saturday to good use...and I thought what better way than Strawberry Shortcake to showcase strawberries being used in a dessert!  After perusing numerous recipes, I chose one that was a cross between a Betty Crocker recipe and a similar version found on the back of a Bisquick box.  The main difference that I could tell between the two recipes is that Betty Crocker's called for 1/4 cup sugar to be tossed with the berries and Bisquick called for 1/2 cup.  I decided to use 1/3 of a cup, because 1/2 cup seemed like it might be too sweet for my taste, and it actually turned out plenty sweet enough with 1/3 cup.  I also added 1 teaspoon of double-strength vanilla to my batter and then I sprinkled the shortcakes with some cinnamon sugar on top before popping them into the oven.  Betty Crocker's recipe called for you to make your own whipped cream. Bisquick's called for you to use thawed "frozen whipped topping".  Instead, I used Reddi-wip real cream that I found in a "fat free" version to help reduce the calories and fat a bit.  It reduces the calories from 15 calories for 2 tablespoons to 5 calories for 2 I thought I'd try it.  I must say that I did not miss the fat in the whipped cream at all.  The container of strawberries that I picked up was 64 ounces and every single berry was perfect -- I did not throw one single berry away (I sliced and sugared the extra berries so we could heap them on if we wanted to).  It is an absolutely delicious and beautiful dessert and one that I will make again and again.

I've included some pictures below as well as the modified recipe that I used to make my strawberry shortcake.  I loved photographing the berries...they were absolutely gorgeous.

The star of this dessert
The basic ingredients (except for milk, vanilla and whipped cream)
Freshly sliced and gorgeous
Tossed into a bowl
Here is a closer look
The sugar has been added
Tossed with sugar...the maceration begins (syrup)
Fat free whipped cream...oh yeah!
The dough is mixed and ready to become shortcakes
Shortcakes ready to go into the oven
Fresh out of the oven
Here, take a closer look...I sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar before baking
This dessert just screams...Welcome Spring...
and...Bring on Summer!

Strawberry Shortcake

4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
2-1/3 cups Bisquick mix
2/3 cup milk (I used fat free half-n-half instead of milk)
3 tablespoons sugar (I used slightly rounded tablespoons, not level)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whipped cream, whipped topping or Reddi-wip (your preference)
Cinnamon sugar, optional (for sprinkling on top before baking)

This recipe makes 6 shortcakes.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

1.  Mix strawberries with 1/3 cup sugar; set aside to macerate (the sugar will help release the juice from the strawberries and makes their own syrup).  I cover and refrigerate them.

2.  In a bowl, stir Bisquick mix, milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, butter, and vanilla and mix until a soft dough forms.

3.  Divide the dough into 6 portions and drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes at 425 degrees until lightly golden brown.  Optional:  Sprinkle tops with sugar or cinnamon sugar before baking.  Split the warm shortcakes in half; fill and top shortcakes with strawberries and whipped cream.  Enjoy!

***P.S.  If you want to see how tossing the sugar with the sliced strawberries (macerating them) looks, I've taken a picture below of how much juice has been released after a couple of hours.  There is no need to add any additional liquid to create syrup, they create their own.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Breakfast...My Style

This morning I had one of my favorite simple breakfasts...a Power Bagel from Einstein's.  I usually have that for breakfast once during the week on either a Saturday or Sunday at Einstein Bros Bagels while we are running our errands.  This weekend must be extra special because I had them twice!  :-)  We had one yesterday at Einstein's, but we picked up a couple to take home with I got to have one again this morning at home along with my favorite Keurig "Donut Shop" coffee.  I had my bagel and coffee with a "side" of Cuties.  For those of you that don't know what an Einstein's power bagel is a bagel WITHOUT a looks like a small loaf of bread.  It is a dense grainy bagel with raisins, cranberries and walnuts...and since it is so solid, it lasts us most of the day....really!!!  Anyway, if you look at this blog regularly, you already know that I like to photograph don't expect today to be any different.  ;-)  Below are a number of pics from this morning's simple "brunch".

This plate just screams...."It's Spring!"
The "power bagel" -- see, no holes
Take a peek inside
Low fat cream cheese has been spread
One more angle for your viewing pleasure
Love at first bite...
My favorite coffee..."before"
My favorite coffee..."after" (went a little wild with the creamer)

Now, for the cutest part of my breakfast
Looks pretty tasty...doesn't it?
Uh oh...a naked Cutie...might have to call the Cutie police
Look seeds!
Looks like the Cutie police have placed them "behind bars"