Friday, March 27, 2009

3rd Time's a Charm

I was trying to toast some pecans to put into my tuna salad for lunch earlier today. I like making tuna salad with a bit of chopped apple, green/red onion, miracle whip, mustard, salt, pepper, AND toasted pecans. My grandma always made tuna salad this way...and I've come to really like it.

Well...I ended up burning the first batch...

And the second batch burned even faster, since the toaster oven was already screeching hot.

Round three...this time, I didn't leave them...and finally, I have lightly golden brown pecans ;-)

Susan, please let me know if this is enough of a flop for you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Orzo and Shrimp Salad with Asparagus

Please don't be mad at me...I know last week I promised to make my oven baked catfish. But asparagus was on sale this week...and I love asparagus. I had this particular recipe set aside for a Friday during Lent, and decided to make it this week, since fresh asparagus obviously won't last but a few days in the fridge.

So, if you'll please forgive me...I promise to make the catfish next week. I forgiven? Thank you...I appreciate your understanding...and your support of my humble little blog :-)

I found the original recipe on, but modified it just a bit (added more shrimp, and used regular balsamic because I didn't find white balsamic in the store). I used about 10 ounces of orzo and 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp since David's not a big pasta person, so I added more shrimp for his sake. Pics to follow sometime this weekend.

Orzo and Shrimp Salad with Asparagus

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 quarts water
8 ounces orzo pasta
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells.

We're going to use them to make a shrimp stock, and boil the orzo in it--this will give the pasta more flavor that it might have otherwise ( i.e.--cooking it in plain water).

To trim the asparagus, just hold the stem in your hand, and bend it gently until it snaps--it will break where the stem is tender (the bottom part is woody and fibrous). If you want make it look pretty, cut it at angle.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp and garlic, and saute for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning. Cook the shrimp until they are pink and tender.

They will continue to cook off the heat, so just a few minutes is all it takes. Remove the shrimp, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside (you'll see below that I didn't bother to cut my shrimp up).

In a large stockpot, bring the 2 quarts of water to boil. Add the shrimp shells and boil for 5 minutes. Strain out the shells (I use this large hand-held strainer that I got at the local Asian market),

and discard them (outside, not inside, unless you don't mind the fishy smell in your house).

Add the orzo to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes.

Now add the asparagus and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the orzo is al dente (take care not to overcook it!).

Drain immediately into a fine-mesh colander.

If you don't have one, you must get one before you make this dish, otherwise all your orzo will go down the drain, since it's a very tiny pasta (and please excuse the mess in my sink!).

Immediately rinse the orzo and asparagus under cold running water to stop the cooking process. This keeps the asparagus a nice bright, green color and stops the pasta from continuing to cook and become mushy (mushy pasta salad is not good!).

In a large serving bowl, toss together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, shrimp, and green onions.

In a separate bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, honey mustard, and basil. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Add this dressing to the pasta, and toss again.

Turn the salad into a serving bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours to meld the flavors.

I liked this recipe because I could make it in advance, and it was really simple. I had all the ingredients on hand except the basil (my basil is about 1 centimeter high in the garden, so it's definitely not ready to pick yet). So I had to use dried basil (boo hoo).

This salad tasted even better the next hope for leftovers! The kids were okay with it the first night, and protested the second night (so they had pizza). David's not crazy about pasta, but he had seconds and told me I could make this "anytime." SCORE one for me! I admit...I am pretty happy to find a pasta recipe that my hubby likes!

I hope you enjoy another meatless recipe from me to you!

God bless your table tonight!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Apple Dippin' Peanut Butter Cookies from "Picky Palate"

Last week was Spring Break for us, and I promised Rebecca we'd make something fun. I saw these cookies on "Picky Palate," and showed Rebecca--who immediately approved of the idea. So off we went to the grocery store to buy the necessary ingredients. We had everything except the sugar and the granola clusters--I found some in the bulk food aisle at HEB.

If you don't want to use turbinado sugar, granulated or white sparkling sugar will work fine. We loved these cookies...if your kids like apples and peanut butter, they will gobble these up in no time flat :-) I'm pretty sure David ate more than the kids...those darn husbands!
I'm going to give you the link to the cookies, just click here on "Picky Palate." Both my girls helped me with these cookies, so I got some cute pics; of course I just had to share them with y'all.

Here's Rebecca peeling the apples. She did a good job, let me tell you.

We used an apple corer/slicer to cut the apples (Rebecca did this too). Then we cut the slices in half, (to make thinner slices), and cut them into small dice.

Here's the granola we found at HEB:

Time to fire up the mixer. I usually let Rebecca man it.

Creaming the butter and sugars together.

In goes the peanut butter...

then the vanilla and egg.

The girls stirred all the dry ingredients together. I make sure one stirs and one holds the bowl with BOTH hands; otherwise your bowl and everything in it may wind up on the floor.

Put your rolling sugar in a shallow dish (I like to use a pie tin). Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop out the dough...

roll the balls in the sugar...which the girls both liked doing until the neighbor boy showed up to play ;-)...

Lay them out on a cookie sheet, and make a criss cross on top of 'em with a fork.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes. I had to bake mine for about 10 minutes, otherwise, they were too soft.

My kids ate these so fast, I didn't even get a picture. They were also outside at the time...that didn't help either....oh well!

God Bless your table tonight!

Plan B

Well, I was going to make some crunchy, oven-baked catfish for dinner tomorrow. But...we're going to the Fish Fry at church instead. I guess you could consider it a mini-celebration for David's new job. However, our kids love to go, it's a good meal at a reasonable price, and it's a nice to chat with friends we see there. We haven't gone up until now because eating at home is always cheaper--especially when your husband isn't bringing home any bacon ;-).

Here's a recipe similar to what I would have done for tomorrow. I promise to post my catfish recipe next week.

I have recipes planned out for the rest of Lent, so be sure to check back!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Rare Sight

David came home early enough last night to grill the skirt steaks we were having for dinner. I'm always happy to delegate the grilling to him. However, I wasn't expecting this:

My hubby is the most manly guy I know, so at first, I was a bit perturbed. I have other aprons, but David took this one, the one with embroidered flowers and my name on the front. He says he didn't want to get his shirt dirty (although I told him he had plenty of time to change).

After looking him over, I decided he looked pretty cute :-) I am glad I got a pic, if nothing else, I can show it to his mom (who BTW, made the apron).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lebanese-Style Lentils and Rice with Spinach

Another week of Lent means another meat-free Friday, and a new recipe from me to you :-).

I got this recipe from the local paper years ago, and usually make it once or twice during Lent. I have some lovely, elderly neighbors at the end of my street (they're from China, so sadly I haven't been able to converse with them at all), but they're out walking all the time. Yesterday, they brought me a big bag of home-grown spinach! I couldn't think of a better way to use it all up (since spinach wilts down to practically nothing).

Lentils and brown rice are also dirt cheap, healthy, and easy to prepare...all you need is a pot and a spoon...and a little patience, since brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice. Pics will be posted over the weekend.

One final note, to all my fellow Catholics, it is permissible to use chicken broth instead of vegetable broth on Fridays of Lent. I alreay had all the ingredients, so I didn't have to run to the store just for vegetable broth.

Lebanese-Style Lentils and Rice with Spinach

1/2 cup lentils (I just buy the generic brand at Kroger or Walmart)
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice (not the instant or quick-cooking)
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth (2 14.5 ounce cans)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
6 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt

In an medium stock pot, combine the lentils, rice, broth bay leaf, and salt, bring to a simmer.

You don't need a hard boil here at all, just a gentle want this to cook slowly. (If your rice and lentils are not done and all the liquid is gone, add an additional 1/2 cup of stock.) Cook, partially covered for 40-45 minute or until all the broth has been absorbed and the rice and lentils are tender. Remove the bay leaf, cover, and set aside.

While the lentils and rice are cooking, heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and saute, stirring frequently until the onions are soft and golden brown.

This will take about 30-40 minutes, and it makes the onions very sweet. If your onions are starting to burn, turn down your heat (and yes, your entire house will smell like onions, which we don't mind, but you might want to check on your supply of air-freshening spray). Here's pics I took about every 8-10 minutes.

Add the caramelized onions to the lentils and rice, along with the allspice, and stir gently to combine. It should have a nice creamy texture--the rice should be tender, not mushy.

Put the lid back on, and set the pot aside.

Here's the spinach from my neighbor. Isn't it gorgeous? I've never seen spinach leaves so big in my entire life...I cut the bunch into thirds so it would fit better into the pan.

Heat the same skillet you used for the onions over medium-high heat, and add the spinach. You will probably need to do this in batches as the spinach wilts down--it should take just a few minutes. Personally, I like to add one clove of minced garlic, but this is entirely optional.

Remove the spinach to a serving bowl, and drain off any excess liquid. The spinach should be bright green and limp, but not mushy.

To serve, scoop some of the lentils and rice in a bowl. Top with a serving of spinach, and a dollop of yogurt.

My kids are okay with this...they don't love it...but they all did when they were babies and still being spoon-fed. Ignorance is bliss :-).

God bless your table tonight!