Tuesday, July 29, 2008


There hasn't been any exciting things going on in Casa de Blue Plate the last few days. Though last night Brian made chicken and steak fajitas that rocked. Combo fajitas are sooooo good! Lasagne is on the menu tomorrow night, though I'm starting to wonder if I've gone a little soft for making a menu that requires turning on the oven at the end of July.

I've been trying to behave, since I joined Sparkpeople about a week ago and have to track calories and fitness and stuff. Yes, I'm finally getting serious, less talk more action! So meals have been a little blah lately, nothing really special stands out. But I won't go on like that for long.... something new always awaits!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery...

Tonight I went out on a limb. Usually I stick by recipes and follow them to the letter the first time I make them. If it's something worth repeating, I may change it up a little bit. Not tonight.

I adore Chili's Restaurant, I have for years. I dig the whole Tex-Mex menu and theme: skillet queso, cadillac fajitas, beans and rice, and of course, the flavored margaritas. But obviously, most of that cheesy, gooey delicious stuff tastes wonderful but isn't exactly wonderful for the state of my hips. So I've tried this appetizer a few times as a healthful alternative for dinner. It's their lettuce wraps, which is kind of a funny thing to find in a Tex-Mex place because they're more Asian than anything else. The ingredients are fairly simple; bibb lettuce, chicken, peanut sauce, sesame marinade, veggie and some rice noodles. So when I was at the farmer's market last weekend (again with the farmer's market!! You'd think they were paying me for advertising) I found some bibb lettuce and I remembered these wraps. Since they LOOK easy, I thought I'd give them a shot, just wing it and hope they come out good. Right down to the peanut sauce.

My friend Alana comes for dinner every Thursday. She plays with Will and we make dinner, and after Will goes to bed, we have girltalk and watch some TV. It's been a Thursday night ritual for a couple of years now. (Wow, has it been that long??) Anyway, I whip up something or we cook together and usually end up eating pretty well. Brian has gone to say that sometimes I cook better for her than I do for him, but really, he's just jeaous. :) No really, I cook things for her and I that he wouldn't eat even if I promised him Flyers tickets to eat it. No, he'd probably take it for the team. :)

So, in the spirit of living adventurously, I threw together some chicken marinated in sesame and apricot, julienned carrots, sliced onion, a can of mushrooms, chopped garlic and ginger paste. All things I already had on hand. (I have one hell of a pantry.) I even made peanut sauce from scratch, (from a recipe though) which was quite an accomplishment after yesterday's pesto debacle. Guess what? It was scrumptious!!!! We ate ALL of it, every bite. And I seriously can't wait to make it again.

Chili's, eat your heart out. They still make a better frozen margarita, though.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Pesto that Wasn't......

Since I had a whole lot of fresh basil left over from my trip to the farmer's market, today was the day to try my hand at something new. Something that I have never attempted to make myself--pesto sauce.

Sauces aren't exactly my strong suite. I can make a great chicken, bake tons of goodies from scratch and even do a decent job at the grill. But sauces? From scratch? Mmmm....no.
But I have mentioned that I love fresh basil, and I couldn't stand to see it go to waste. So there I was, printing a recipe online. It looks simple enough, with just five ingredients:

However.....in order to make fresh pesto, you need a food processor. And NO, Ginny, the "chop" option on your blender is not a good enough substitute!!! So now I have a blenderful of basil in various stages of "chopped," and parmesan cheese, pinenuts, olive oil and garlic tossed in with it. It's not looking good. I still don't want to admit defeat and feed the whole mess to the garbage disposal. So I reach for the "Hail Mary" ingredient....a can of tomato puree. I open the can and pour it into the blender and scrape down the sides. I replace the cover, press "mix" and cross my fingers. I turn it off and grab a spoon to see if my precious basil can be saved. Hmmm....this stuff's not bad! It's not the BEST tomato sauce I've ever had, but it's good enough to pour over pasta and have a quick late lunch. Hooray! Thank goodness I always keep a couple of cans of tomato products in the house. They've been my saving grace before, and oh yes, they are again!

Now......if anyone needs any birthday ideas.....a food processor. Too bad my birthday's in December. No fresh pesto till then!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Zucchini Overload!

Since I picked three more zucchini yesterday, it was time to make another zucchini dish. I found a recipe in "Joy of Cooking" aka "The Bible" for a Zucchini Frittata. I've never attempted a frittata, but I've screwed up plenty of omelets and the idea of an "open-face" omelet with no flipping or folding was tempting. It took a little while to make, but it was worth it. And even Hubby, the self-proclaimed zucchini hater, took a second portion!

I also went to the farmer's market nearby yesterday for some farm-fresh corn. That's one thing I won't attempt to grow, it's seems like a lot of work for such a little return. Of course, I came home not only with the corn but some carrots, Boston and Iceberg lettuces and a cucumber. Oh, and a bunch of fresh basil. I ADORE fresh basil, it's perfume is intoxicating. I brought it home not sure what I was going to do with it, but I'm thinking some pesto sauce. I've never made it fresh, but I'm sure it's good!

Zucchini Frittata

one small onion, chopped
one medium zucchini, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 grated or shredded parmesan cheese
5 large eggs
torn fresh basil
olive oil

Preheat broiler on "low" setting.

In a cast-iron skillet, pour two tablespoons of olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add chopped onion, stir and cook until soft. Add zucchini, cook until golden (approx ten minutes) Remove from pan, remove pan from heat.

Crack all five eggs into a large bowl, add salt and pepper to taste. Beat until smooth. Add zucchini and onion mixture. Add torn basil and parmesan cheese to the mix. Put skillet back on burner, pour olive oil to coat pan, and warm on medium. Once oil has warmed, pour in egg mixture. Spread zucchini evenly. Turn burner to low, let bottom of frittata cook and set. Once it looks cooked (i.e. the edges of the frittata are cooked) put under the broiler in the oven for 30-90 seconds or until set. A traditional frittata is not browned, so don't overcook. When it comes out of the oven, invert onto a large plate. Serve in wedges.

Another thing I plan on making today is Ratatouille. I don't know where the recipe for this comes from, but it is something that my mother has made for years. It's a totally vegetarian dish, and I've made it for my friend Jenny when she comes over and she likes it a lot. It can be served over rice or pasta, or as I am going to try it over sliced, pan-fried polenta!


1 med/large eggplant, cubed
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 TBSP chopped garlic
one med onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, with added Italian herbs (or you can use plain if you like)
grated parmesan cheese

Warm two tbsp olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, cook until softened. Add garlic, cook until softened. Add eggplant and zucchini, cook until softened. Pour over the can of tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is heated throughout. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I baked this last night with the first zucchini from my garden and had a piece for breakfast. Sooo good. And even better...Will had a piece for breakfast too and was none the wiser that he had just eaten a green vegetable! I cut the sugar down to a cup and a half, and really, I don't think the finished product was lacking because of it. Enjoy!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread (taken from AllRecipes.com)

2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and chocolate; beat well. Stir in the flour baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Harvest!

The garden is growing quickly, and I have the fruits of my first harvest! I have one perfect red tomato, two big zucchini and a whole bunch of green beans. There's more beans out there, but I didn't want to pick them before we could eat them. I actually was afraid the beans wouldn't make it, because of the bunny population helping themselves. (Hey, they need to eat too!) I already know that the tomato is getting sliced on a burger tonight, but no plans for the zucchini just yet.

I'm so excited! After all this time, I finally have a green thumb, and have the pictures to prove it! :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Another hot night, and another night of not wanting to cook. Hmmm....what sounds good, besides ice cream sundaes?? I know, Banana Pancakes!!

Banana pancakes have been my absolute favorite since I was a little girl. They're especially good with toasted pecans and a dollop of whipped cream, but we're talking dinner, not dessert. Heck, if I'd had whipped cream in the house, I probably would've doused 'em! :) Plus, it's a dinner that Will and I can both eat instead of playing the "I don't want it" game. I even poured chocolate milk for both of us, a rare treat for him. He loves milk so much that I don't usually have to put chocolate in it.

Anyway...nice easy night, complete with paper plates. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Picky, Picky

Lately I've added recipes and cooking tips....but I haven't said anything about feeding a toddler. How's it going? Not the greatest!

Will is like most toddlers, very into carbs, like mac n cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. He hates most pasta, will SOMETIMES eat a chicken nugget, and is painfully particular about fruits but despises most veggies. He will eat green beans and carrots once in a blue moon. He loves bananas and blueberries, and will eat a bit of cut-up apple. No melon, strawberries or peaches, which I thought he would gravitate towards because they're so sweet.

Then there are some nights, some nights that he won't eat ANYTHING I put in front of him. Tonight is one of those nights! He didn't want the spaghetti-os or the green beans....but did munch on a cereal bar. I actually used these words..."Hey Will, this isn't a diner." Aughhhh!

I know that it will eventually get better, and maybe he'll eat another meat besides the occasional cut-up hot dog. (And calling that meat is pushing it at best!!) I know that I have to try, try, try again. But I miss the baby who would eat spoonful after spoonful of baby food, regardless of flavor!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Make it Garlic....Lots of Garlic!!!

I'm channeling my inner pseudo "Italian" again. Garlic is one of those things people love or hate, there really is no middle ground. I adore garlic! Many people think that it is a little strong, but not if you roast it. It's really, really easy to do. One thing I have to mention though....sometimes people get confused how much garlic should be included in a recipe. A bulb of garlic, is the entire garlic, the head that you buy at the grocery store. The individual parts are the cloves. Because there is indeed, such a thing as too much garlic!

The Garlic Capital of the World is Gilroy, California. Brian and I were in California several years ago and we drove through Gilroy and it was all you could smell. Heavenly! While we were in California, I wanted to try a restaurant in San Francisco I'd heard about called "The Stinking Rose." Their motto is "We flavor our garlic with food." Unfortunately it was not meant to be, as parking in San Francisco can be a bit of a nightmare!

How to Roast Garlic:

Peel away the dry outer layers of skin from desired number of garlic heads. (one medium head makes about a tablespoon of garlic paste) Leave skins of clove intact. Cut off the pointed top portion (about 1/4 inch) with a sharp knife, leaving bulb intact but exposing the individual cloves of garlic.

Place the heads of garlic, cut side up, in small baking dish. Drizzle each head with 2 tsp olive oil. Bake, covered, at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until cloves feel soft when pressed.

Aloow head (s) to cool slightly before handling. You can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

So now that you've roasted some, what can you do with it??

--Serve warm and spread it on french bread as an appetizer. (They do this at Vinny T's and I love it!!)

--Mix with olive oil and toss with pasta and Parmesan

--Add to potatoes before mashing

--Combine with softened butter and use for basting chicken

--It makes an excellent pizza topping! (my favorite pizza is actually basil, mushroom and roasted garlic)

Now, a couple of recipes:

CHICKEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC (Yes, you read that correctly!!)

This is one of my favorite chicken dishes. The roasting makes the garlic really mellow. Instead of bread, I like to serve it with rice to soak up the juices.

Ingredients1 (4-lb) chicken1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper1 scant cup olive oil2 fresh parsley sprigs1 fresh rosemary sprig1 fresh thyme sprig1 fresh sage sprig1 bay leaf (not California) 1 celery rib40 garlic cloves, peeled (from 3 to 4 heads of garlic)
Accompaniment: toasted baguette slicesSpecial equipment: kitchen string

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Tie legs together with kitchen string and fold wings under chicken.
Heat oil in a 6- to 8-quart wide heavy ovenproof pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken, turning it carefully, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
Tie herbs and celery together with string to make a bouquet garni and add to pot along with garlic cloves. Put chicken, breast side up, on top of cloves and bake, covered tightly, in middle of oven, basting twice, until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted 2 inches into fleshy part of a thigh (avoid bone) registers 170°F, 30 to 40 minutes.
Transfer chicken to a cutting board, reserving pan juices, and let stand 10 minutes. Cut chicken into serving pieces and spread roasted garlic on toasts. Serve chicken drizzled with some of reserved pan juices.

Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Jam
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2005
See this recipe on air Tuesday Jul. 22 at 2:00 PM ET/PT.
Emeril Live
Gotta Have Garlic

4 thick-cut pork chops Canola oil Essence, recipe follows Garlic Jam, recipe follows
Preheat a grill to medium-high. Brush pork chops with oil and season with Essence. Place pork on grill and grill on both sides until a meat thermometer reaches 150 to 155 degrees F. Serve pork chops with garlic jam.
Garlic Jam: 4 large heads garlic 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 of a sweet onion 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Bring a medium saucepan with salted water to a boil. Cut the garlic heads in half crosswise and blanch for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic heads and any loose garlic cloves from the water with a slotted spoon and drain well. Pour olive oil into a small baking dish and place the garlic heads cut side down into the oil. Add any loose garlic cloves and the onion quarter to the oil. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.
Remove the garlic from the oil and squeeze the softened garlic cloves into a medium bowl. Peel the onion quarter and finely dice. Add the diced onion to the garlic cloves and mash with a fork until smooth. Stir the Worcestershire and lemon juice into the mashed garlic and continue stirring until smooth and creamy. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. The garlic jam will keep refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: about 1/2 cup
Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast): 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons garlic powder 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lunch Options and "Restaurant Row"

My weeks have been pretty busy lately and the summer is quickly passing me by. This week is no exception.

I had no energy to create leftovers last night for lunch today, like I usually do. So today is Plan B straight from the freezer, a Lean Cuisine.

Most frozen meals have no right to call themselves so. They don't taste much like they're supposed to, usually the "Sweet and Sour Chicken" tastes exactly like the "Lemon Pepper Fish" and so on. This one wasn't too bad though. It was from the Lean Cuisine Spa collection, and it was salmon with brown rice and vegetables. The salmon tasted like salmon, though not GOOD salmon! But, it stopped me from buying lunch at one of the many lovely Italian eateries in this section of the city. It won't hold my hunger for long though...frozen dinners never do!

Speaking of this city......I work on a street that I have fondly nicknamed "Restaurant Row." This area of town is known for it's restaurants, bakeries and eating and drinking establishments. Everything is predominantly Italian. The people, the food, the culture. Italian, Italian Italian! You want pastries? A big plate of spaghetti? Good pizza? An Italian sandwich as fat as they come? This is the neighborhood. And the bakeries.....oh the bakeries! Italian cookies galore! If you're not in the mood for Italian fare, there's other options. There's a sushi place, a hot dog haven and four old, established diners less than a mile from where I sit. No wonder I have to work hard to plan lunch every day, I'd go broke!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fourth of July Treats

We spent the weekend at my parent's cottage for the Fourth of July this year. The weather made it kind of a bust, but we still had fun playing board games, watching movies and playing with Will. And of course, what would the biggest weekend of the summer be without some cool treats????

For one thing, I've found a fantastic marinade. Price Chopper's "Central Market" brand is fabulous in any of the stuff I've tried so far, especially their ice cream! But their "Sesame Apricot" marinade this weekend was tops. We marinated chicken breasts for about half and hour and then grilled them. So good! Mom also made a blueberry/nectarine pie this weekend. It was good because it wasn't overly sweet. Just the right blend of fruit, sugar and crust.

But the best, the creme de la creme, was grilled fresh pineapple topped with coconut sorbet and a little caramel sauce. This came together SO easily and was SO good! You grill the pineapple slices, top with coconut sorbet, drizzle with caramel and serve. However, WAIT to top the pineapple after it cools a little bit, unlike us. :) One thing I have learned in the last few weeks is not to be afraid of a fresh, uncored pineapple. I consulted "The Joy of Cooking" (or as Brian and I refer to it, "The Bible") for the best way to peel and core a fresh pineapple. Once you have a fresh pineapple, you may never want the canned stuff again!