Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homemade Ranch Dressing & A Very Delish Salad

With the exception of eggs, I prefer to eat salads above almost any other  food. I love huge salads with tons of veggies and often order them when I go out to eat. I consider myself a salad aficionado. One of the absolute best salads I've ever eaten is from one of our favorite local restaurants, No Frill Grill. It's called The Spotswood Salad (since the restaurant is located on Spotswood Avenue, pretty clever) and is loaded with so much vegetable goodness: baby spinach, mushrooms, radishes, sprouts, tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers, and onions. Then they take the salad to a new level and top it with crumbled bleu cheese, raisins, and candied pecans. It's heaven on a plate for salad lovers like me. 

I decided to model my own salad after this incredibly delicious salad and then came across this recipe for homemade buttermilk ranch dressing on Pioneer Woman's  Tasty Kitchen site. The results are the best salad ever! :) Okay, maybe not the best salad ever, but a very very delish salad. If you have never made ranch dressing, you just have to! My husband and I wanted to eat every little drop up and we did in about 24 hours! It's inspired me to try making my own dressings because store bought doesn't even compare!

Let's start with the Ranch Dressing, because you'll want to make it first and let the ingredients marry overnight. The key is to use fresh herbs!

Homemade Ranch Dressing
From The Pioneer Woman
2 cloves garlic
Salt to taste
1/4 cups fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chives
1 cup real mayonnaise
1/2 cups sour cream (I didn't have any on hand so used plain yogurt)
Buttermilk  (as needed to desired consistency) *I used about 1 tablespoon
White vinegar (to taste) *Again, I used about 1 tablespoon
Worcestershire sauce (optional, to taste) *I used about 1/2 tablespoon
Cayenne Pepper (optional, to taste - I omitted)
Fresh dill (to taste) *I used a couple teaspoons since we love fresh dill
Paprika (optional, to taste) *I used a couple shakes
Fresh oregano (to taste) *I didn't have any fresh on hand so omitted
Tabasco (optional, to taste) *I used just a couple dashes

Mince the garlic with a knife and then sprinkle about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of salt on it. Mash it into a paste with fork. Chop the parsley, chives, and any of the optional herbs very finely and add to the garlic.
In a bowl combine all ingredients, adding other optional ingredients as you wish, tasting frequently and adjusting seasonings as needed. Chill for a couple of hours before serving, then thin with the buttermilk if desired.

Ashley's Delish Salad
2 chicken breasts, marinated in garlic and teriyaki sauce for several hours
Clover sprouts
Cucumber, peeled and sliced
Baby carrots, sliced
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced 
Green onions, chopped with only white and light green pieces
1 Avocado, sliced
1/2 cup pecans, toasted in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes (keep an eye on them!)
Crumbled bleu cheese
Grill the chicken and slice into long strips. Combine all salad ingredients together. Place chicken on top of veggies. Top with pecans and bleu cheese. Drizzle the homemade ranch dressing on top. Chow down on this extremely lovely salad.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sesame-Soy Salmon

My wonderful in-laws gave me this beautiful Dutch Oven for my birthday, along with a very cool recipe book called Glorious One Pot Meals. The first recipe I tried from the book is Sesame Soy Salmon. I chose this dish because I was looking for a salmon recipe, since 3 of you lovely readers voted I should use salmon next in my ingredient poll. It sounds strange combining salmon, cabbage, and avocado, but it was a very unique and light dish. I love the flavors of the sauce: soy sauce, ginger, garlic, lemon juice and sesame seeds. It was super healthy too, using just a little sesame oil and lots of veggies. Everything was cooked perfectly. The salmon just flaked off, the cabbage was not too crunchy, not too mushy, and the avocados kept their delightful shape and flavor. I am excited to put my new Dutch Oven to use as I try out more recipes from the cookbook.

Sesame-Soy Salmon
From "Glorious One Pot Meals"
Special Thanks and Lots of Love to Mom and Dad T
2 1/2 teaspoons of sesame oil
1 cup Jasmine Rice
1/2 - 3/4 lb salmon filet
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 head red cabbage shredded (about 2 cups) *I used green cabbage 
1 avocado, sliced
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat the inside and lid of a cast iron Dutch Oven with 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil.
Rice the rice in a strainer under cold water until the water turns clear. Tip the rice into the pot. Add 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water and stir to make an even layer. Place the salmon in the pot and scatter the carrots of top of the fish.
In a small bowl, mix the remaining sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and lemon juice. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. 
Pour half the mixture into the pot.
Layer in the cabbage and top with avocado. Pour the rest of the soy sauce mixture over the top.
Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Serve immediately. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Snickerdoodle Blondies

When I came across this recipe for Snickerdoodle Blondies on one of my newly found favorite cooking blogs, Beantown Baker I immediately knew I had to try it, since Snickerdoodles are my favorite cookies. I am not sure what I did wrong but the original recipe says to bake the dough in a 9 X 13 pan and when I tried spreading it out, it was very thin so I changed to a 8 X 8 brownie pan. I added about 15 minutes on the to cooking time and the results were super thick and mildly doughy bars but I actually like the fact that they were a teeny bit undercooked. They have the crunchy cinnamon/sugar top of a snickerdoodle but the texture is more like a brownie. Soooooo good!

Snickerdoodle Blondies
From Beantown Baker (who got the recipe here)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 X 13 inch pan (or in my case a  8 X 8).
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large bowl beat together butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth.
Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in a prepared pan. Note: Mixture will be somewhat like cookie batter and you may want to wet your hands to spread the batter into the pan.
Combine the white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.
Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until the surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool slightly. While still warm cut into bars with sharp knife. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Breakfast Casserole

Growing up my Mom made this Breakfast Casserole every Christmas Eve for our family to delve into Christmas morning after opening our presents. It's a family favorite, so naturally when my Mom came to visit for my birthday a few weeks ago I asked her to make this for me. I remember helping her make it as a child, but this time I really paid attention. It's really simple, requires very few ingredients, and is an excellent and filling breakfast with the meat, cheese, bread, and eggs are all baked together. Mom usually uses a roll of turkey sausage, but we couldn't find any at the grocery store and went with Jimmy Dean fully cooked sausage. It was still good, but I definitely recommend using the sausage you cook up and crumble!

Breakfast Casserole

1 lb sausage or ham, cooked, crumbled, and drained
12 eggs
4 cups of milk
1 tablespoon of dried onion
12 slices of bread with crusts removed and cubed
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of dry mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Whip together eggs, milk, and spices. Add in meat and cheese and bread last. Pour into a greased 9 X 12 inch pan, cover with foil and let sit in the fridge overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Best Homemade Granola

In my quest for a healthy lifestyle I am trying to incorporate less processed foods into my diet. I really love granola, and decided that it was time to learn how to make my own so I added it to my List of 30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30. I am not sure this is the most low fat/low calorie recipe out there, but it's definitely one of the best granolas I've ever eaten and I consider myself a granola enthusiast. My favorite store bought granola is Nature's Path Organic Pumpkin Flax Granola. If you like granola and have never tried it, I whole heartedly recommend you pick a box up sometime.

I searched and searched for a good granola recipe and ended up choosing this one from Kiss My With a blog name like that, I knew this recipe would be good. (I also chose this recipe because it is tweaked from Barefoot Contessa, and it contains brown sugar and flax seed - the brown sugar because I knew it would be sweeter, and the flax seed because the Nature's Path Granola that I adore has flax seeds.)

This granola is very easy to make and it made a huge batch - about 7 cups!! I decided to use low calorie apple juice and added in two tablespoons of Trader Joe's flax seed oil because I have it on hand and forget to take it! Why the kick for flax seeds? This article about flax seeds on states that flax seeds may fight everything from heart disease, to diabetes and breast cancer. They contain Omega-3, Lignans, and Fiber. Basically, they're really good for you! Eat them!!

Another thing I loved about this recipe is that it made my home smell like apple crisp while it was baking. I didn't add in any dried fruit because I wanted to top the granola with fresh fruit instead. Note to Margaret: go make this granola!!! And please let me know when you do!

Best Homemade Granola


4 cups organic rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (not a big fan of these, so I omitted them)
2 tablespoons flax seeds (I used ground)
1 cup shredded coconut
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable or olive oild
1/3 cup good honey
1/3 cup apple juice or apple cider
1 cup dried cranberries or your favorite dried, chopped fruit

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl stir together the nuts, oats, flax seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk the oil, honey, and apple juice in a measuring cup.
Pour the liquid mixture over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Spread onto a large sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture forms a nice, even golden brown, abound 30 minutes, depending on oven.
Remove granola from the oven and allow to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Add the dried fruit. Store granola in an airtight container. 

Note: The Best Homemade Granola + Oikos Greek Yogurt + Fresh Blackberries = Snack of bliss after working out!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Margaret's Bean Burgers

I asked my sister in law Margaret to share this recipe with to add to my 30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30 List. When I visited Marg & her husband Chuck in Hawaii last summer Margaret made these delicious bean burgers and I wanted to give them a try myself. One of the many, many things I love about Margaret is that she inspires me to be more health conscious and aware of what I am putting into my body. She is uber healthy - I mean, come on, she runs marathons as a hobby! She also cooks and eats very healthy as you will see from the ingredients in these bean burgers. These nutrtious burgers fill you up and are bursting with fiber. They are a great alternative for vegetarians if you are having a cook out. I made these while was my mom was visiting and we ate  the burgers with fresh roasted parsnips to  complete our healthy, yummy vegetarian meal.

Bean Burgers (Margaret calls these "A Tootin Good Meal!")
Special thanks & lots of love to my beautiful sister Margaret
1 can of kidney beans drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons whole wheat flower
1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms (I used more because I love mushrooms)
1/8 cup finely chopped bell peppers
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Burger toppings of your choice: cheese, tomatoes, onion, ketchup, etc
Combine beans, flour, mushrooms, bell peppers, and spices in a large mixing bowl. With a fork or potato masher, mash ingredients together until the beans are broken up. If ingredients get too dry, add 1/2 tsp of water or olive oil. With your hands form mixture into patties the size of a standard burger . Spray skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Allow the patties to cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Complete burgers should be crispy on both sides and not fall apart easily. 
Top with cheese and other toppings of your choice and dive into your fiber filled burger!
These burgers are posted  at Recipes To Run on Healthy Living's Link Party!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vegetable Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of my favorite take out items and I especially love vegetable fried rice. Since the hubby is working nights right now and isn't around at dinner time demanding meat, it's the ideal time to try some new vegetarian recipes. I decided to adapt this Vegetable Lover's Fried Rice recipe I found at All because it didn't require a wok (which I do not have). I was super excited about the results. It tasted pretty authentic compared to our regular Chinese take out fried rice. Plus, it's another way to incorporate my all time favorite food, eggs. :)

Vegetable Lover's Fried Rice
Adapted from

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
3 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 of a chopped onion
1 garlic clove, peeled & minced
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
4 ounces of mushrooms
2 carrots, peeled and chopped very small
4 or so green onions, chopped with only the white & light green parts
1 cup baby sweet peas
2 tablespoons of butter

Cook rice according to directions on box. Transfer to a medium container and place in the refrigerator 1 hour, or until chilled. 
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until tender. Meanwhile in a medium  bowl blend together eggs and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Pour into the skillet with the onion and garlic and cook until the eggs are no longer runny. Remove the mixture from the skillet and set aside. Chop any large egg chunks into small pieces.
Heat the remaining oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir in the celery, mushrooms, and carrots. Cook until tender but firm. Stir in the rice and sweet peas. Add in the butter and melt. Season with the remaining soy sauce. Cook and stir for 5 minutes or until the rice is heated through. Mix in the egg/onion mixture, add in the chopped green onions and stir together until heated through.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


When my Mom flew in later in the evening this week, I thought that this Hummus Recipe from Good Things Catered would be a perfect little snack once we got home. Katie warns you that there is no "recipe" for hummus and that it may take several attempts at Hummus before mastering the correct flavors. For my first batch I thought it was pretty good! I will probably cut down on the garlic next time and would love to try a roasted red pepper variation too. It was a good use of the tahini I had left over from my Sesame Noodles and when served with fresh veggies and toasted pita bread, hummus is always a delicious and healthy snack to munch on.  

Adapted from Good Things Catered

1 can of chick peas 
1 - 2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons + of Tahini (Sesame Paste)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Drain the water from the can of chick peas into a small bowl and reserve. In a food processor (or blender) mix together the chick peas with the rest of the ingredients, being careful to add the second half of the lemon juice and tahini slowly as you stop to taste.
Slowly add in some of the reserved liquid from the beans and a bit of water for correct consistency until a smooth, slightly fluid paste is formed.
Refrigerate for at least 3o minutes before serving. This changes the taste of the hummus by allowing the flavors to form together.

Note: To dress the hummus up for the table, add an extra drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle paprika and chopped parsley on top. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Turnip Mashed Potatoes

I've made these turnip mashed potatoes once before and the hubby loved them. Since I only had 2 potatoes but a lot of turnips on hand the day I made Perfect Pot Roast I decided to have a second go at them. This is most definitely not the healthiest side dish. It is, after all, from Paula Deen the Queen of Cream and Butter. But having Pot Roast without mashed potatoes is absolutely unacceptable. These mashed potatoes are fabulously easy, super creamy and it's a great twist on classic mashed potatoes.

Turnip Mashed Potatoes
from Paula Deen
6 large red new potatoes, skin on (I used two large brown potatoes)
2 large turnips, peeled (I used several small turnips)
1/2 cup cream, heated (I used fat free half and half and 1% milk)
1 stick butter, melted (I used all of this!)
1/2 cup sour cream (Didn't have on hand, so omitted)
Salt and pepper
Slice potatoes and turnips 1/4 inch thick. Cook in boiling water for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain. Whip unpeeled cooked potatoes and turnips with an electric mixer until moderately smooth. Don't overbeat them; a few lumps are nice. Add hot cream, butter, and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whip again until blended. Adjust thickness by adding more cream if desired. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Perfect Pot Roast

When I made my 30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30 I asked my hubby if had any requests. "BEEF!" He responded, particularly pot roast.  The poor guy doesn't get to eat much red meat. Both he and I ate Pot Roast as kids and I had never tried making my own Pot Roast, so put it on the 30 Before 30 List. I remember coming home from church and  smelling my Mom's Pot Roast cooking in the oven and enjoying it several hours later. 

One of my favorite cooking bloggers, The Pioneer Woman, posted her Pot Roast recipe recently because she made it for her recent appearance on The Today Show. I was excited that this recipe is very simple and that you just let it cook for several hours. I guess that is the magic of a Pot Roast! The meat just fell apart, that's how "perfect" this Pot Roast is. Very moist, flavorful, and colorful with the mushrooms, onions, and carrots! I served  Paula Deen's Turnip Mashed Potatoes alongside this dish because potatoes are a MUST with Pot Roast. Hubby was very happy and (I'm hoping) felt like a manly man eating all that meat and potatoes. :)

Perfect Pot Roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 4 to 5 pound Chuck Roast
2 whole onions
6 whole carrots, peeled and sliced into 2 inch pieces
1 container button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 cup red wine
2 to 3 cups Beef Stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary (dried is also fine!)

Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Cut the onions in half and the carrots in slices. When the oil in the pan is very hot, but not smoking, add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate. Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so. Remove them to a plate.
If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate. With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef  broth, about 1 cup, to deglaze the pan. Scrape the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up. When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan. Add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onions and carrots, as well as 3 or 4 fresh sprigs of rosemary and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.
Put the lid on, then roast in a 275 oven for 4 hours. 


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