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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mediterranean Inspired Orzo Salad

 So, in April I went to Utah to surprise my sister for her 30th Birthday. Her husband then surprised us all by taking us by limousine to The Roof Restaurant at the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. They had a salad there that was made with Israeli couscous and was full of Mediterranean flavors. I was determined to re-create it at home. I searched high and low for Israeli couscous, but when I turned up empty handed, I decided to just use orzo past, which I love.
It is a simple pasta salad using my Greek Style Vinaigrette.


Ingredients: 
1 C. orzo pasta
1/3 C. pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped (about 10 olives)
1/3 C. crumbled feta cheese
1-2 Tbsp. fresh chopped dill
Salt and Pepper if needed 

Directions:
Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. 
Chop Kalamata olives
Chop dill

Place orzo in a bowl, add olives, feta cheese, dill and dressing. Toss to coat. Adjust dressing or S&P according to taste. 

You could easily add whatever other ingredients you want. Chopped spinach, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts would be great additions. 
And, if you are lucky enough, you could try it with Israeli couscous. 


 




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies


I absolutely LOVE chocolate chip cookies!  They are my favorite type of cookie.  I know that may make me boring, plain, and ordinary, but I don't care!  I previously posted a similar recipe, the Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookie.  That recipe can be found here: Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Today's recipe is by the same author, Picky-Palate.  You will find the BEST cookie recipes at Picky Palate!  Yum!  Here is the recipe for delicious Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies.

Ingredients List:

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/8 c. sugar
3/8 c. light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 regular Oreo cookies, broken into small pieces
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Cream butter with sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add egg and vanilla and stir until well combined.

3. Place flour, soda, and salt in a large bowl; stir to combine.

4. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture. Stir just until combined.

5. Stir in Oreos and chocolate chips just until combined.

6. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop cookie dough onto greased cookie sheets.

7. Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Yield: 23 cookies (using medium cookie scoop)

Nutrition Facts (using My Fitness Pal software): Per cookie: 139 Calories, 7.1 g Fat, 0.1 g Fiber, 1.5 g Protein

Source: Picky-Palate (seriously, check out this website!)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Creamy Avocado Pasta Sauce

This is a great sauce and it's full of healthy fat and flavor.  I served it with some cubed, cooked chicken and rice vermicelli noodles (since I'm avoiding wheat).  But you could serve it with any noodle you wish and have it as a main dish or as a pasta side dish.

Ingredients:
1 ripe medium or large avocado (pitted and scooped out of the skin)
1/2 lemon
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

(Begin cooking your pasta before you start the sauce.  By the time it's al dente, your sauce will be all ready to go!)

In a food processor blend the garlic, the juice from the half lemon, and the olive oil.   Add the avocado, basil, and salt.  Process until smooth.  If too thick, add water a couple of Tbsp. at a time through the feed chute until it reaches the consistency you want.

Garnish your pasta and sauce with zest from the lemon half and with extra chopped basil if desired.  You may also want to add some salt and pepper.

Mine was pretty thick even after about a third cup of water added, but once it was mixed in with the pasta it was perfect!

Source:  greatist.com

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tin Foil Dinner



This is easy to make several of (I usually make enough for 5 zip lock bags), and cooks up really fast for when you are in a pinch!

All you need is:

Hamburger
Veggies of choice (I use Zucchini, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes, and Green Beans)
Ketchup
Mustard
Salt
Pepper

Precook the veggies until soft then mix them in with the raw hamburger and add ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper to your liking.  Once combined put it into your frying pan to shape it to fit, then slide into a 1 gallon zip lock bag and lay flat to freeze (as you can see in the picture above it is still frozen but fits nicely in my pan).  When you need it just take it out, pop it in the frying pan you measured it in. Cover and cook until the hamburger is cooked through.  The reason I have not given amounts is you can make it more meaty or veggie depending on your preference.  We usually serve it with a big salad.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Freezer Meal: Cafe Rio Chicken





A little confession.  I know the food is good at Cafe Rio.  I ate there once or twice on a trip to southern Utah a few years back.  But I don't go ballistic nuts over it.  Just sayin'.  Maybe because I have had so much authentic Mexican food that I never feel like I have been deprived, you know? (Not sure if this is a copycat recipe or what, but my source is noted at the end of this post). This was really tasty.  I used it in a salad, but there was plenty left over to do burritos or fajitas, tacos...OMGoodness, this would be amazing in Sopa de Pollo!

Ingredients:
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 oz.  zesty Italian dressing
1/2 T. minced garlic
1 packet ranch dressing mix, combined with 1/2 cup water
1/2 T. chili powder
1/2 T. ground cumin

1.  Place all ingredients in a zippered freezer bag (gallon size). Close bag and smoosh all the ingredients together.  Place bag in freezer until ready to use.

2. Take out of freezer one hour prior to prep time--this is also a slow cooker recipe--OR run room temperature water over the bag for about 30 seconds.  Then, empty ingredients into a slow cooker.

3.  Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours.  Remove from slow cooker and shred with forks.



NOTE:  Great in tacos, salads, burritos, etc.

TIPS:  You might want to put this in two quart-size bags, depending on the size of your slow cooker.  What I have found with these recipes is that however you place them in the freezer is the shape and size you are going to have of your frozen meal.  Hopefully, that fits in your cooker.  Mine barely did on this.  But I tried a different recipe the other day (yuck!!) that I laid out flat to freeze and it wouldn't fit my smaller cooker and even with my larger oval one I had to chop away at the corners of the food to get them down in order to get the lid on securely.  Good things to know before you start.

Source:  Chef In Training.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells


This is a recipe you can make and freeze and cook at a later time.  These were yummy but I think I would cover them with foil when baking and/or add some sauce to make them juicier.

Ingredients:

12-16 jumbo pasta shells
water for boiling pasta
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese + 1/4 c. for topping
3 T. prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 c. shredded cooked chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1.  In a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package, cook pasta shells only until al dente.  The pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked.  Drain the pasta shells and set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the 1/4 c. of cheese for the topping.  Fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c. of cheese over filled shells.

3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 30 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

To make ahead/freezer meals:

1.  Prepare as directed but place filled shells in an oven and freezer proof baking dish.  Top with remaining 1/4 c. of cheese over filled shells.  Cover and freeze.

2.  When ready to prepare, defrost, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese is melted.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Law of the Fast


Today is Fast Sunday!  I know what that means to me.  But, what does it mean to you?

According to LDS.org, "To fast is to go without food and drink voluntarily for a certain period of time. Fasting combined with sincere prayer can strengthen us spiritually, bring us closer to God, and help us prepare ourselves and others to receive His blessings."

In the April 2001 General Conference, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared his insight into fasting and prayer.  His words follow:

"In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members are encouraged to fast whenever their faith needs special fortification and to fast regularly once each month on fast day.  On that day, we go without eating or drinking for two consecutive meals, commune with our Heavenly Father, and contribute a fast offering to help the poor.  The offering should be at least equal to the value of the food that would have been eaten.  Typically, the first Sunday of each month is designated as fast Sunday.  On that day, members who are physically able are encouraged to fast, pray, bear witness to the truthfulness of the gospel, and pay a generous fast offering.  “The law of the fast,” taught Elder Milton R. Hunter, “is probably as old as the human family. … In ancient times, prophet-leaders repeatedly gave to church members the commandment to observe the law of fasting and praying.”    
 
We observe that in the scriptures, fasting almost always is linked with prayer.  Without prayer, fasting is not complete fasting; it’s simply going hungry.  If we want our fasting to be more than just going without eating, we must lift our hearts, our minds, and our voices in communion with our Heavenly Father.  Fasting, coupled with mighty prayer, is powerful.  It can fill our minds with the revelations of the Spirit.  It can strengthen us against times of temptation."
 
Fasting is not simply going hungry for two meals because it is a commandment, or because we have to fast; we fast to help others and to help ourselves.  By giving money or resources to the church instead of spending the money on food for ourselves, we are able to help the church to help those in need.  By fasting, we are better able to maintain control and power over our bodies, which so often are weaker than the mind and spirit.  By fasting and prayer, we are able to more fully and readily feel the Spirit, receive revelation and answers to specific prayers, and acquire a greater relationship with our Heavenly Father. 
 
For more information on fasting, please see LDS.org and visit the full General Conference talk by Elder Wirthlin here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/04/the-law-of-the-fast?lang=eng&query=fast
 
Sources LDS.org for definition and General Conference talk