Sunday, February 26, 2012

Guilt Free Fridays

Despite the fact that this Tuesday was known for its fat intake, it is really Fridays that Catholics need to worry about during Lent.  Coming from a city predominately founded by German Catholics, I can tell you that over the next 7 weeks, we will be bombarded with signs advertising local church fish fries (but our favorite fish is probably from Mueth’s tavern). 
My husband is not a huge seafood fan, and frankly he would run away from me screaming if I suggested vegetarian food, but we have found a few meals that answer the meatless Friday dilemma.  Some of our go-to dinners during Lent include meatless mostaccioli, Margherita pizza, potato soup, tortilla soup, and breakfast for dinner.  (I’m still working on a few others though.)  In the meantime, we’ve decided to switch up our grilled salmon recipe a bit by swapping our favorite salmon glaze (Daddy Sams) with a sour cream dill sauce.  (This is actually the same recipe I use for the dill dip I serve with rye bread at parties.)  Ironically, sour cream is usually another food the hubby isn’t a fan of either…
We decided to serve this dish with Mrs. T’s potato and cheddar perogies.  We like to bake ours, but you can also pan fry or boil them. 
(I have to make a confession here.  We are fortunate enough to have family and friends who enjoy our presence so much that we were unable to make this meal until tonight.  This was a bit of a disappointment though because I was dreaming about this dish all week!)
So without further ado, here’s the recipe:
Grilled Salmon with Dill Sauce
*2 salmon fillets
*Butter or margarine
*Lemon juice
*8 oz. sour cream
*Minced onion flakes
Preheat your grill to between 400 and 500° (every “expert” will tell you something different).
Meanwhile, combine the sour cream, dill, minced onion, and salt.  (Hint: I use 8 shakes of each spice and taste until I get to the flavor I'm looking for.  You will need much less salt than dill and minced onion.)
When you start the cooking process, be ready to roll because this will only take 6-8 minutes.
Lay a sheet of tin foil over the grill and coat liberally with cooking spray.
Lay the salmon on the grill skin side down.  Season the top with a dollop of butter or margarine and a few conservative squirts of lemon juice.
Close up the grill and cook for 3-3 ½ minutes depending on the heat of your grill.
When this time has passed, salt and pepper the salmon and flip it over, cooking for another 3-3 ½ minutes.
When this time has passed, flip the fish back over and use a meat thermometer to check its internal temperature (it should be at 135°).  If it's not quite there, close the grill back up and cook for 1 minute increments until the fish has reached it's optimal temperature.
After transferring to plates, top the fish with the dill sauce or serve it on the side.  (I would recommend plating the salmon with the skin still on.  This will keep the salmon from falling apart in the transfer.)  Feel free to garnish with scallions/green onion if you have them too. 
And viola!  You should wind up with something that looks like this:
And since I watched Julie & Julia again this week, I have to give credit to Julie Powell for making me feel like it’s okay to say “Yum” about my own food (despite proper etiquette) because dinner was definitely an experience tonight!
It’s still early in the year, but as the grilling season picks up, I think a Woodchuck pear cider would be the perfect complement to this meal, as would Lipton island mango and peach white tea.
I guess if I have to give something up for Lent this year, it might as well be fried fish.  It might be a challenge to pass up the fish and chips at one of our favorite Irish pubs on St. Patrick’s Day, but I think it will be worth the sacrifice to incorporate more healthy dishes into our diets.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

As far as St. Louisans are concerned, today is highlight of Mardi Gras.  It marks the annual River City Grand Parade in Soulard, and my husband and I have been fortunate to be a part of it for the last 2 years thanks to our friend, Lern, at KSHE 95. 
In fact, St. Louis has the 2nd largest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation!  And I’m pretty sure these people (the Rhythmic Krewe of Belvakis) are our neighbors… literally.
In the spirit of the “holiday”, I decided to make my jambalaya recipe.  Since we never know when the Mardi Gras festivities will end, I made this meal last night.  Much like my chili recipe, this makes a large quantity of food.  Also like my chili, this is a fairly mild recipe, but you can make it spicier if your heart desires.
*1 can red (kidney beans)
*1 can black beans
*1 can diced tomatoes (optional)
*1 can crushed tomatoes
*2 cups rice
*¼ cup Franks hot sauce
* 1 lb. of chicken
*2 sticks of Johnsonville Andouille sausage (optional)
*½ Hillshire Farms smoked sausage (combination of beef, pork and turkey)
*½ green pepper, julienned
*Minced onion flakes
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Tony Chachere's Cajun seasoning (optional)
Cut your chicken into chunks and cook in a large, deep skillet with the green peppers.
In a separate large pot, combine the beans, tomatoes, hot sauce, minced onion, and salt and pepper.  Bring the vegetables to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.
Slice the sausage and add to the skillet when the chicken has almost cooked completely through.  Cook this for approx. 5 more minutes on medium heat before adding to the vegetables.
In a slightly smaller pot, cook the rice according to the instructions on the box.  When the rice is tender and fluffy, add it to the vegetables, and simmer for at least 5 minutes to allow the flavors time to combine.  (If you want to make the dish a bit spicier, add cup hot sauce at a time.)
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
To make a healthier version, you can rinse the beans before cooking them, rinse the starch off the rice before you boil it, and use a combination of white and brown rice.  (And if you want to make your jambalaya a bit more traditional, don’t combine your rice with the meat and veggies.  Serve the meat and veggies on top of the rice instead.)  You can also serve this meal with Jiffy cornbread.
If you’d like a complimentary Cajun dessert, I recommend beignets, crepes suzette, bananas foster, cherries jubilee, or bread pudding.  Better yet, save your dessert recipe for a special post-Mardi Gras breakfast!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Love Affair with Food

My husband and I had to celebrate Valentine’s Day a little early this year since he is on a business trip out of state today.  This is our 4-part Valentine’s weekend menu:
First, we decided on a “sure thing” for dinner Saturday night: meat roll-ups and twice baked potatoes. 
This recipe was one of the first I tried to recreate from my parents’ repertoire after we got married.  At the time, the recipe called for breakfast steak, but I had a very difficult time finding this cut of meat at our local grocery store.  After countless attempts to find an appropriate substitute, I learned cubed round steak was an even better option.  If you can’t buy “cubed” round steak, you can always buy round steak and ask an associate in the meat department to cube/tenderize the meat, or purchase a hand-held tenderizer called a “needler” to do it yourself at home.
This is a video that explains the importance of cubing round steak.  (ALTON BROWN IS MY HERO!!!)
(If you don’t’ want to watch the entire clip, start the video at 1:13 and end at 6:48.)
So without further ado, here is the recipe:
*1 pkg. cubed round steak
*1 pkg. pre-cooked bacon
*1 jar cocktail onions
*1 jar Heinz savory beef gravy
*Salt and pepper to taste
Grease a 9x9” casserole dish and preheat your oven to 350°.
Cut the steak into 1X4” strips.
Fold a slice of bacon in half and lay on top of each piece of steak.
Place an onion at one end of the bacon, and roll the meats up around it.  Secure with a toothpick.
Place in rows in the casserole dish, season with salt and pepper, and cover with gravy.  (Use less salt than pepper because there is already salt in the gravy.)
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine does every time I so much as think about this meal!
And no meal is complete without a complementary side.  I’ve come to realize that potatoes are the best companion to this dish.  Recently, my husband and I started buying twice baked potatoes from the Schnucks deli, but I thought I’d combine 2 of my favorite potato recipes (crock pot baked potatoes and loaded mashed potatoes) to make my own for a change. 
First, you will need 4 large potatoes.  Wash them well, and put them into your crock pot for 3 hours with ½ cup of water.  Cook them on high for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, take the potatoes out with tongs and set on a baking rack to cool for about 10 minutes (so they are cool enough to handle).  Then, cut them in half length-wise, and scoop most of the insides out of the skins and empty into a large mixing bowl.  (Leave about ” of the insides in the potatoes for structure.)
 Mash the potatoes, then combine the following ingredients:
*2 tbsp. butter, softened
*1 cup lite sour cream

*½ block (4 oz.) cream cheese, softened (a little less if you’re using smaller potatoes)
*½ pkg. (4 oz.) shredded cheese (we like colby jack)
*¼ cup bacon bits (we like the REAL bacon bits by Oscar Meyer)
*2 scallions, chopped
*Salt and pepper to taste
I recommend using a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients because the potatoes tend to get stuck in the beaters of an electric mixer.
Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins, or use a piping bag if you have one. 
Place the potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 30-45 mins. depending on the size of the potatoes.
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
I bought a bottle of Barefoot Sweet California Red wine to pair with our meals, but what Valentine’s Day dinner would be complete without a sinful dessert?
So, that’s where my "homemade with help" German chocolate cupcakes come in…
*1 box chocolate cake mix (I prefer devil’s food over the actual German chocolate mix.  It has much more flavor, but do whatever you like best.)
*Needed ingredients listed on the box of the cake mix
*1 stick of butter
*1 tsp. vanilla
*1 can condensed/evaporated milk
*1 cup sugar
*2 egg yolks
*1 ½ cup shredded coconut
*1 cup chopped pecans
*A pinch of salt
Prepare the cake mix, pour ¾ full into cupcake wrappers, and bake at 325° for 25 mins.
While the cake is baking, mix all ingredients in a medium pot except coconut and pecans.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.  Allow to boil for 3 mins., stirring constantly, then remove from heat.
Let cool for 5 mins., then add coconut and pecans.
Once your cupcakes are all out of the oven and have had time to cool, spread the first coat of icing over the cupcakes.  (This icing is very thin, so it will take 2 coats.)
Wait about 20 mins. to add the second coat.
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
And yes, I am well aware that I am a messy icer.  Luckily, German chocolate cake icing isn’t very pretty to begin with.  If you’re a big nerd like I am, you could also use a heart-shaped pan.

On Sunday, I made French toast when my husband got home from his 5 mile practice run in Forest Park.  Of the 16 pieces I made, my husband ate 12!
*16 pieces of sandwich bread (we used sandwich wheat this time since we’re trying to be “healthy”)
*6 eggs
*Approx ¼ cup milk (we use 2%, but you could also use skim)
*Approx 3 tbsp. butter
*Approx 2 tbsp. vanilla
*Cinnamon to taste
*Powdered sugar and/or maple syrup for garnish
Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk.
Meanwhile, melt the butter over a griddle or large skillet set to 350° or medium-high.  (We prefer to use our griddle for more even cooking.)  Melt only a portion of the butter at a time.  You will only cook about 3 pieces of toast at one time on the griddle, or 2 pieces at most on a large skillet.
Dip each piece of bread into the egg mixture one at a time, and lay on the hot griddle/skillet.  Use your best judgment to determine cooking time.  (It should not take more than 2-3 minutes on each side of the bread, but you want to look for the egg coating to turn white, and a slight overall golden brownness.)
Once cooked, garnish with the powdered sugar or maple syrup.  You can also use fresh fruits, preserves, nuts, and/or whipped cream.
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
And nothing washes down the taste of rich French toast like a hearty cup of Thomas coffee!
So maybe our holiday wasn’t the most romantic experience this year, but it was nice to spend some quiet time together before my hubby’s trip…

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Today millions of Americans will be tuned in to Super Bowl XLVI, better known as the 2007 Super Bowl rematch of the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.  I will definitely be rooting for the Giants today.  (Heck, if I can't have Peyton, I might as well support the other Manning!)  Besides, I would rather see just about anyone take the Lombardi trophy home over Cry Baby Brady and his shady, cheat-face coach, Belichick.
But I digress... Something else millions of Americans will be doing today is eating chili.  Here is my own personal recipe which can only be described as "Pot Luck Chili" because it uses part of my mom's recipe and part of my mother-in-law's recipe.  It is a very mild recipe, and it is very versatile.  Not only can you add chili powder, red pepper flakes or hot sauce to spice things up, but you could also add cocoa powder, Coca-cola or ketchup to make a sweet version.  If you have leftovers (and unless you're feeding 6 adults, you will have leftovers), you could also use the remaining portion in chili mac, chili dogs or chili cheese fries, etc.
So without further ado, here is the recipe:


*1 can mild chili beans
*1 can red (kidney) beans
*1 can diced tomatoes (in sauce)
*1 can crushed tomatoes
*1 ½ lb. (diet lean) ground beef
*1 can Armour Star chili (without beans)
*½ packet of McCormick (original) chili seasoning
*Minced onion flakes
*Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, cook ground beef with salt, pepper and onion over medium-high heat (Note: go easy on the salt since there is a lot of sodium in the beans).
In a large pot, combine remaining ingredients, and add a bit more onion.
When the meat is cooked through, add to the pot and allow mixture to come to a boil.
When the pot begins to bubble, turn down to medium-low heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes.

You should wind up with something that looks like this:
Originally I used fresh white onions in this recipe, but lately the onions I have bought have been so strong that I smelled like onions for days no matter how many times I washed my hands and brushed my teeth.  Minced onion flakes are the perfect solution to this problem.  Like I mentioned before, this recipe makes about 6 adult-sized portions, but don’t worry if you have quite a bit left in the pot after dinner.  This recipe freezes well, and it can also be made in the crock pot if you are planning to take it to a party.

Photos courtesy of and

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Allow Me to Introduce Myself...

This is Day One of my new "housewife" blog, but you don't need to be a stay-at-home mom to appreciate the information I plan to share.  My husband and I have been married for 3 ½ years, we both work, and we do not have children yet.  Generally speaking, we are a fairly modern couple.  However, since I am only working part-time, I currently take on the majority of the household responsibilities.  I don't always feel like a domestic diva, but I'd like to change that in 2012, and I think this blog might just be the motivation I need to get organized. 
Today's woman is under quite a bit of pressure to find success in her professional life as well as maintain a spotless home.  Meanwhile, she is expected to keep a picture perfect appearance herself.  Not unlike the housewives of the 50s, she also believes she must be a gracious hostess, always prepared to entertain on a moment's notice.  And let's not forget the expectations of her husband...
At times, being a modern woman can be overwhelming.  I plan to share a variety of simple recipes, cleaning and organizing tips, as well as DIY craft and decorating ideas.  To get started, enjoy these helpful planner printables courtesy of