Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Thanksgiving Treat: Show Stoppin' Sausage Apple Stuffing

Show Stoppin' Sausage Apple Stuffing
(Serves 15)

As if I don't spend enough time in my kitchen already, around Thanksgiving I pretty much set up a bed there.  Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to put my heart and love into preparing foods for loved ones to show them how truly thankful I am to have them in my life.  This year especially has presented me with some very wonderful events that have inspired me to infuse my feelings into my food.  Thanksgiving isn't just a day for me ... it's a whole week of cooking!!

Below is my recipe for cornbread stuffing with sausage and cinnamon dusted apples.  It can be prepared days ahead of the big day and warmed either in the bird or in a large casserole dish.  The flavor combinations and textures are music to your mouth, and you WILL be asked for this recipe, as I am every single time I make it.  I hope you whip this up for your loved ones this year!

- 2 packets of cornbread stuffing cubes
- 1 loaf of unsliced multi grain bread - slice it yourself into large cubes
- 1-2 lbs of ground sweet Italian sausage
- 6 pink lady apples, cored and sliced into bite size pieces
- 1 pack of celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 extra large white onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 large cartons or cans of chicken stock
- Margarine
- 2 tsps of sage
- 2 tsps of poultry seasoning
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

- Over medium heat, lightly brown sausage in the bottom of an extra large pot.
- No need to drain the sausage once done.  Simply add and melt 3 tbsps of margarine to the meat and toss in all of the chopped celery and onion until lightly softened over medium heat (about 8 minutes).
- Sprinkle ground cinnamon over the chopped apples and toss them into the pot.
- Pour in both packs of the stuffing cubes and stir the entire mixture.  Turn heat to low.
- Pour in one carton of chicken stock, and continue to lightly toss the mixture.
- Add the hand cubed loaf of any multi grain bread, and toss again.
- Lightly sprinkle in the sage and poultry seasoning.
- Stir in the remaining carton of chicken stock, and do the final toss.
- With a large spoon, transfer the stuffing into a large casserole dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake on the middle rack at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then uncover the stuffing, turn heat up to 400 degrees, move to the top rack, and continue baking for 10 minutes.  This gives your stuffing that crispy top ... the best part!!

If you want to warm the stuffing in your turkey, simply prepare the stuffing as set forth above, and, instead of putting it in a casserole dish, scoop it in the bird!  Cooks perfectly every time.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Salted Caramel" Grilled Shrimp

"Salted Caramel" Grilled Shrimp
(serves 4-6)

With the end of Summer approaching, it's not too late to fire up that grill!  Autumn is one of my absolute favorite times to barbecue ... crisp, cool air and no humidity make for comfortable and perfect grilling conditions.  In fact, did you know that meats and seafood grill better and faster in cooler weather?  Well, they do.

As a busy professional who prides herself on putting a healthy dinner on the plate each night, shrimp are always on my power rotation.  They are high in protein, low in fat, and cook in lightning speed.  Shrimp also take on the flavor of any interesting marinade, rub or glaze that you can think of.  With so many flavor combinations out there, you're really only limited by the bounds of your imagination.

Below is my recipe for "Salted Caramel" Grilled Shrimp, which I've been working on for some time now.  The sweet & salty glaze is music to your mouth, is so simple to make and will keep your family coming back for more.  But, the best part about this recipe is that, start to finish, you can make this flavorful culinary delight quickly.  Now that's a Real Meal for the Working Woman!!

- 2 packages of Kraft caramel squares
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground Kosher salt
- Approx. 18-20 large, peeled and deveined raw shrimp 
- Wooden skewers

- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat your grill on the medium setting.
- In a saucepan, gently warm and melt 2 packages of Kraft caramel squares over medium low heat all at once.  Stirring frequently. 
- Once melted, add the ground Kosher salt and keep stirring.
- Dip each shrimp with tongs into the caramel.
- Spear 3-4 shrimp on each wooden skewer.  I prefer spearing the shrimp on 2 skewers each to prevent spinning while grilling.
- Grill the shrimp on the barbie, mate!  They take about 3-4 minutes total depending on your grill’s capabilities.  Do not overcook shrimp or they get chewy.  Flip them once about half-way through cooking.  (If no grill is in sight, heat a ridged grill pan over medium heat and spray with olive oil cooking spray.  Place skewered shrimp in the pan, and cook the same way, turning half-way through.)
- Generously brush the remainder of the caramel sauce all over the shrimp while grilling. 

Serving Suggestion:
I like to serve my shrimp over warm saffron or wild rice with fresh grilled asparagus on the side.  My friend likes to serve them over a chopped salad with crispy Chinese noodles and sesame dressing drizzled on top.  As you can see, the possibilities are endless.  I hope you WOW your loved ones with this one tonight!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ain't No Plain "Vanilla Bourbon Brioche" French Toast

"Vanilla Bourbon Brioche" French Toast
(Serves 10)

Simply put, there is just no better way to satisfy and impress your family or breakfast guests than upscale French Toast.  I've heard this referred to as "deliciousness" and "beyond decadent".  My "Vanilla Bourbon Brioche" French Toast is sure to please, without question, every single time you serve it.  It truly is a Real Meal for the Working Woman -- the whole meal can be prepped and cooked, start to finish in about 15 minutes.  A couple of caveats:  (1) there is a hint of alcohol in this delectable dish, and (2) it's not short on calories.  However, there are ways to make it in a healthier way -- i.e., Splenda instead of sugar,  Egg Beaters, and whole grain bread -- none of which I recommend.  Made from only the best ingredients, this French Toast puts pancakes to shame, melts in your mouth, and sends chills of gastronomical satisfaction throughout your body.  I've worked hard on developing this recipe over time, primarily guided by the smiles on my friends' and families' faces.  I hope you WOW yours with this culinary delight the next time the breakfast bell rings in your home.

2 loaves of unsliced Brioche bread (available at any good bakery)
18 eggs
3/4 cups milk
2 vanilla beans (sliced open lengthwise to expose moist insides)
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp bourbon (any brand)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp water
Margarine (butter not recommended because of propensity to burn)

- Swiftly beat 18 room temperature eggs in a large bowl with a whisk.
- Add milk and continue whisking.
- Add 2 vanilla beans, sliced open.
- Add 1/2 cup sugar.
- Add 1/4 cup cinnamon.
- Allow the egg mixture to rest for 5 minutes, occasionally whisking the vanilla beans throughout.
- Slice 2 loaves of Brioche bread 3/4 inch thick.
- After 5 minutes, remove the vanilla beans and add the vanilla extract, bourbon and water. 
- Continue whisking and then pour mixture into a glass casserole dish or glass pie pan.
- On a large griddle, melt 2 tbsp of margarine over medium heat.  Once melted, lightly wipe off the extra margarine with a spatula or paper towel.
 Place sliced bread (a few at a time) on one side into the casserole dish for 10 seconds.  Flip the bread with tongs or a spatula, squish the bread into the egg mixture once with a spatula for a second or two on the other side, and then immediately place on the warmed griddle. 
- Cook one side of the bread until light golden brown, which takes about 2 minutes (I add a sprinkle of sugar on the uncooked side at this point.
- Flip the bread with a spatula to cook the other side, which will cook much faster. 
- Once both sides are golden brown, place each Vanilla Bourbon Brioche French Toast slice on a serving plate, and keep them in a warming drawer (or warm oven) until all slices are done. 
- You will likely have to reapply margarine (and then wipe it off) between batches on your griddle.

Serving Suggestions
This dish is so sweet and delicious and can be eaten on its own.  I always offer my diners maple syrup and sometimes sprinkle powdered sugar on top.  For an added touch, serve with butter, fruit jam, fresh fruit, real whipped cream, or a smudge of cream cheese on the side.  And, don't forget some extra crispy bacon!

This dish can also be made with Challah bread, which has a similar consistency and texture, but it's just not AS good.

Any leftovers can be saved in a Ziploc bag and reheated the next morning, and they are just as good the second time around.  My husband even warms a slice up for dessert at night and tops it with his ice cream of choice.  Enjoy!

Real Meals For The Working Woman

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Fresh Grilled Tilapia "Pouches"


Tilapia is one of the easiest and fool-proof types of seafood to cook, and cook perfectly, every time ... period.  This is because of its mildly higher healthy fat content.  It's subtle flavor and moist texture develop consistently under all different kinds of heat sources.  My favorite way to serve tilapia is ON THE GRILL in individual serving flavor pouches.  Wrapping fish and vegetables in foil with a light splash of lemon juice, water and seasonings makes for a quick, healthy and no-mess meal for your whole family in minutes, which is ideal for working women and busy moms out there.  The fish and vegetables steam cook inside of the aluminum "envelope"!  And, the flavor possibilities are endless.  Below is my recipe for Summer Fresh Grilled Tilapia Pouches, which is always on my "power rotation" in our household in the warmer months.  I have found that the best way to complement this dish is with either Orzo Salad (see my blog) or nice, fluffy saffron rice.  You just can't go wrong with this one folks.  I'd be honored if you try some for dinner tonight.

6 Tilapia fillets
Red, Orange or Yellow bell peppers, sliced.
Red seedless grapes, cut in half.
1 Hidden Valley Ranch dry ranch dressing packet
Fresh lemon juice
Table salt
Cooking spray

- Preheat your grill to the Medium setting.  If your grill does not have a temperature control, heat the grill over hot coals until the flame dies down.
- Lay out sheets of good aluminum foil -- large enough to form an "envelope" around each piece of fish -- and spray each with nonstick cooking spray.  Place each tilapia fillet on each piece of foil.
- Squirt fresh lemon juice over the fish or brush on some extra virgin olive oil. 
- Sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt and one Hidden Valley Ranch dry ranch dressing packet lightly over each piece of fish.  (Other options are lemon pepper, Mrs. Dash or fish seasoning.)
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of water to each envelope.
- Add peppers and grapes to each piece of foil.  They will steam with the fish while it cooks on your grill.  (Other options are cherry tomatoes, green beans, sea beans, broccoli, onions or squash.)
- Seal the foil loosely into an "envelope" and pinch the ends.  The opening of the envelope should be on top.  - Set on the grill for 10 minutes.  The fish is finished cooking when flaky and white. 
- Viola!  You've made the perfect, quick and heart healthy dinner!

Serving Suggestion
This meal is best presented and served by placing an envelope of fish and vegetables on each person's plate.  The aroma and steam that escapes when they open them up is worth its weight in gold.  Don't forget some Orzo Salad or saffron rice on the side.  And for those of you who are not so calorie minded, add a small pat of butter to each envelope before sealin' and grillin'. 

Real Meals For The Working Woman

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beer Lacquered Barbecued Ribs

Beer Lacquered Barbecued Ribs

When one thinks of making their own barbecued ribs, they think of two important things.  First, the time investment.  And second, the sauce!  While my blog prides itself on giving the working woman an edge on cutting meal preparation time while focusing on healthy food options, be forewarned.  My beer lacquered barbecued ribs don't exactly fit those tenets.  But, what you spend on time and additional calories will pay for itself in family time spent near your grill at barbecue time!  There's just nothing quite like these juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, fall-off-the-bone ribs.  Be sure to serve them with fresh grilled corn, cole slaw, baked beans, crunchy fried onions or even moist cornbread to soak up the extra sauce.  I can assure that you'll be the hit of your next barbecue.  Enjoy!

4 lbs. pork back ribs
1 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 cups beer (take your pick!)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (take your pick!)
1/4 cup honey
2 cloves minced garlic

- Put ribs, sherry and enough water to cover the ribs in a large pot or Dutch oven. 
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Let simmer uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours or until ribs are tender.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan for the marinade.  Heat on medium and stir until boiling and the brown sugar dissolves.  Cool in fridge.
- "Lacquer" the ribs with enough marinade to cover them, and refrigerate covered in foil for at least 3 hours.  Reserve the remaining marinade.
- Wrap the ribs in foil after pouring the remaining marinade all over them.  Place them on the grill (over medium heat) for 5 minutes per side.  Check inside the foil to make sure the sauce is bubbling.  The foil keeps all of the juice and sauce with the ribs and not in your grill, which makes for tender ribs and an easy clean-up! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Got All Your Barbecue Fixins? ... "ORZO" You Thought


The warmer weather is upon us.  That means one thing in my neck of the woods ... BARBECUES!!!  But who says that you have to stick to the old standards when it comes to grillin' and chillin' for your friends and family?  No matter what you plan to grill on the barbie mate, you will be remiss if you don't add my Show Stoppin' Orzo Salad to your picnic table.  So simple to prepare, easily made in bulk quantities, stores beautifully (yay leftovers!), and it's just plain delectable.  I make this weekly in my household in the Summer months and often send guests home with extra servings or, at a minimum, my tried and true recipe for this refreshing dish.  This salad makes any barbecue "upscale" and will leave them coming back for more.  For the working women and busy moms out there, you can feel good knowing that this salad is made from healthy ingredients and can even be served as a side dish to any dinner you make during the week.  A delicious time saving classic which packs a punch in both flavor and texture!!  I'd be honored if you serve this at your upcoming holiday barbecue or bring it to one that you're headed to.  Enjoy!

1 lb. orzo, cooked al dente, drained and cooled
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice  (I use the juice of at least 3 lemons plus a little more)
Feta Cheese (crumbled)
3 or 4 scallions, freshly chopped
Red seedless grapes (cut in half if they are big)
Pine/pignoli nuts (1 bag), toasted
Salt and pepper to taste (preferably kosher or sea salt)

- Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste salt.
- Toast the pine/pignoli nuts in a sauté pan over medium high heat.  Keep shaking the pan or the nuts will burn or throw the pan in the oven under the broiler – watch carefully so they do not burn!!
Put the cooked, cooled orzo in large bowl; add cheese, scallions, grapes and pine nuts.  Mix together. 
Pour whisked olive oil/lemon juice mixture over the orzo.  Mix together and refrigerate.

NOTE:  I do not put all the olive oil/lemon juice mixture on top of the orzo all at once.  I usually make this one or two nights before I’m going to use it so I pour ½ the oil/lemon juice mixture on the orzo and then refrigerate.  In the morning I re-mix the orzo salad once more and add as much of the oil/lemon juice mixture to the orzo salad as needed, mix together and serve. 

SUGGESTION: This salad is also great with a protein added as well as shredded carrots and chopped mint for an extra POP of color and flavor!

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Can't "Peel" Them Away From This Banana Bread

Chocolate Indulgence Banana Bread

More and more people have been asking for me to post my recipe for my Chocolate Indulgence Banana Bread.  I won't try to put a healthy spin on this folks ... It's dessert ... It's decadent ... It's amazing.  This banana bread recipe will be the last one you'll ever turn to.  This rich bread is made from only the best, quality ingredients and comes out moist, flavorful and aromatic every time.  The Dutch Cocoa and really ripe bananas truly make this dish.  I'll be honest ... this bread looks a little plain and disarming on a serving plate sitting next to cakes and brownies, but I promise you, it WILL be the talk of your next party. 

Down 35 pounds now, I confess that I have to bake it while chewing gum to make sure I don't lick the bowl or "sample" it along the way.  For the working woman or busy mom out theremy Chocolate Indulgence Banana Bread can be made quickly, the recipe can easily be made in bulk quantities, freezes perfectly and can be defrosted slice by slice during the week for those in your household who shall remain nameless who just gotta satisfy that ever aching sweet tooth.  Oh, and coupled with a scoop of ice cream, it's just plain magic.  Enjoy!      

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Dutch Cocoa*
3 or more ripe (I like them dead) bananas
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Banana Liquor
1 cup or more good semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a large loaf pan or two. 
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. (I like to split the sugar as half brown sugar, half white sugar). 
- Once creamy, add in eggs until fluffy. 
- In a separate bowl, sift all dry ingredients.
- In a third bowl, mash bananas and mix in extract and liquor.  Add the dry ingredients and the bananas, alternating in thirds and ending with the bananas. 
- Add in chocolate (I use Ghirardelli chocolate and typically add in more than the recipe!). 
- Bake in oven 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out relatively clean.  Do not overcook this bread.  Best that it stays moist.  Cool on a rack, wrap in cellophane and refrigerate. 

Real Meals (ahem ... Desserts) for the Working Woman

Monday, April 18, 2011

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Orecchiette ... With Broccoli

Orecchiette with Broccoli

Happy Easter Everyone!  Holiday time is always crazy at our house.  Lots of gatherings and lots of hungry guests.  I try to make extra dishes that are not only quick-n-easy but also that keep well in the fridge ... just in case.  Here's one of them.  My orecchiette with broccoli can be made, start to finish in under 15 minutes and is actually best served at room temperature.  With the advent of tons of interesting whole grain pastas on the market now, you can easily cut the carbs in this dish.  And, you can keep it simple and classic (like what's pictured above), or be bold and avant garde and try adding fresh sauteed seafood, crispy pancetta, sliced sausage or even canned tuna to this crowd pleaser.  There's simply no way to get this dish wrong, and even your unexpected guests will think you slaved over a hot stove for them.  I have received accolades on this dish since I started making it a decade ago.  And, so will you.  So, lend me your orecchiette - your ear, that is - and I'll show you how it's done!

1 pound of any whole grain pasta.  I prefer orecchiette (ear shaped) macaroni
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 heaping tbsps crushed garlic (from the jar).
4 heads of fresh broccoli (stems removed, and broken into individual bite-size pieces)
Freshly grated Parmigiana cheese
Red pepper flakes

- Boil the macaroni in 6 1/2 cups of well-salted water until al dente.
- Steam the broccoli until vibrant green, which takes about 3 minutes.
- In a large skillet, saute the chopped shallots and garlic over medium heat until the shallots are caramelized, which takes just a few minutes.  Be careful not to burn them.
- Once the broccoli is steamed to perfection, add them to the olive oil, shallot and garlic mixture, and toss briskly over medium heat until the broccoli is well coated.  It doesn't hurt to taste one.  Do not overcook this, or the broccoli will lose its nutrients and start to turn brown. 
- Drain the macaroni, and add it to a large bowl or Tupperware. 
- Carefully pour the sauce and broccoli over the macaroni, and give it a toss with a large slotted spoon.
- Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

I truly prefer serving this dish at room temperature or even cold.  It's fantastic!

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Na-CHO Ordinary Tacos: Veggie-Pinto-Turkey Tacos to the Rescue

Veggie-Pinto-Turkey Tacos
(serves 4 to 6)

While the average tacos made in your house probably include lettuce and tomatoes as a garnish, there's an even better way to make sure your family gets at least two full servings of vegetables and protein in every bite.  My veggie-pinto-turkey tacos are bursting with them and are very low in fat and calories at the same time.  Truth be told, you really don't need to be an accomplished "cook" to make these, and you'll feel very good about serving your family something delicious, healthy and fun.  The secret to cutting the fat and sneaking in proteins, vitamins and minerals is to mix them all together into one powerful punch!  These health-minded tacos can be made in about 15 minutes, which is ideal after a long day.  For those of you out there who think your families won't eat ground turkey instead of beef, you have my permission not to tell them.  Trust me, they'll probably never realize you made the switch!  The best part about this meal is that the leftover filling can be saved and used to make nachos, taco salads, or simply eaten all by itself.  That's a gift that keeps on giving for the busy working woman or mom.  Ole!!!

1 lb. 99% fat free ground turkey
1 packet of low sodium Taco seasoning (I prefer Ortega)
1 package of taco shells (soft or hard)
1 can of pinto or cannellini beans (drained)
1 can of corn
Fresh mushrooms (coarsely chopped)
1 tbsp of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
Lettuce (coarsely chopped)
Grape tomatoes (sliced in quarters)
Fat free shredded taco (or Mexican) blend cheese
Fat free sour cream

- Fully cook ground turkey in a large skillet over medium heat.  Toss in 2 tbsps of water while the poultry is cooking to keep it moist.  There is no need to drain afterward.  Make sure to break up the pieces of turkey with a wooden spoon while cooking.
- Add 1 can of drained pinto/cannellini beans to the poultry, along with 1 can of corn and 1 package of freshly chopped mushrooms.  Toss the turkey, beans, corn and mushrooms as well as 1 tbsp of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter in the skillet on medium for about 3 minutes.  All of the ingredients will cook down and blend together.
- Add taco seasoning to this mixture with 3/4 cup of water over medium heat and stir vigorously until the water blends and/or evaporates and everything is coated.  Remove from heat. 
- Warm your soft or hard taco shells in the oven or microwave until warm to the touch.
- Chop your lettuce and tomatoes and set aside in a bowl with shredded cheese. 
- Make an assembly line!!  Have your family and guests make their own veggie-pinto-turkey tacos, and make sure they garnish with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa and sour cream!

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Heart Rigatoni: Rigatoni with "Swicy" Sausage & Cream

I'm an Italian ... by marriage, that is.  When Sundays roll around in our household, there's really no debate as to what's for dinner.  It's always some variation on "macaroni and gravy".  My goal, therefore, has been to find healthy and flavorful ways to put my spin on the concept.  My rigatoni with swicy (sweet & spicy) sausage and cream is one of my Sunday Greatest Hits.  I prepared this as somewhat of an extra, throwaway dish for a surprise spaghetti and meatballs birthday party for my husband last year to break things up a bit, and the entire platter was wolfed by 60 guests in about 10 minutes.  I'm partial to it exactly the way I make it -- the added kick from the spicy sausage truly elevates this dish.  But, you can make it with just sweet sausage, and you'll love it just the same.  The whole meal can be made in under 20 minutes (when you boil the pasta water while preparing the sauce), which saves valuable time and effort.  And, using whole grain pasta and fat free heavy cream cuts the carb and calorie intake for you and your family.  This is another great meal that keeps well and even tastes better as leftovers.  That's a win.  So, what are you waiting for? ... MANGIA!!!   

Rigatoni with "Swicy" Sausage and Cream 
(serves 4 to 6)

1/2 lb Sweet Italian Sausage
1/2 lb Spicy Italian Sausage
1/2 cup (1 stick)  I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
1 cup fat free heavy cream
1/3 cup any tomato sauce (referred to as "gravy" in my household)
1 tbsp nutmeg
Freshly ground sea salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiana cheese
1 lb Barilla Plus rigatoni (or whole wheat rigatoni)
3 tbsp freshly chopped parsley leaves

- Place the sausage in 1 1/2 cups water.  Cover, bring to a boil and turn heat down to low.  Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. 
- Remove sausage from water.  Drain it on a paper towel on a plate.  Once it is cool to touch, remove the casings and crumble.
- In a large skillet, melt 1/2 cup I Can't Believe It's Not Butter over medium heat.  Add fat free heavy cream, turn heat to low and cook until mixture is well blended and slightly thickened, stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon.  Stir in crumbled "swicy" sausage, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook for one minute.  Add 1/3 cup of  tomato sauce and Parmigiana cheese, give it a quick stir, and promptly remove from heat.
- Cook the macaroni is 6 quarts of salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain in a colander, transfer to a large pasta bowl containing 1 tbsp of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and toss quickly.  Mix 3/4 of the sauce with the macaroni and spoon the remaining sauce on top. 
- Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and Parmigiana cheese. 

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Breakfast in a Bite ... A Wee Bit of Scotch Eggs"

Scotch Eggs

Brunches are a big part of my social life ... and so are breakfasts "on the go".  Today was one of those days.  Got me thinking to my Grandmother's recipe for Scotch Eggs, which is perhaps the most ingenius and inventive way to serve, and eat, breakfast.  What's better than a delicious hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded and baked to a crispy brown?  I made these for our annual pot luck party last year and received accolades from people of all ages ... yes, even kids.  The best thing about this recipe is that it can be tweaked to add other ethnic influences and flavors.  But, my family's are the best

Scotch Eggs are ridiculously simple to make, satisfying to eat at anytime of day, and will be the talk of your next brunch.  I make up a batch on a Sunday morning, and we nosh on the leftovers all week long.  The best part of this meal (yes, it's a meal) is that it saves you the hassle of having to make 2, 3 and sometimes 4 different types of eggs to order for the family at breakfast time.  That's more time for mama to relax, sip her latte and think about how she can spend her newly-found free time not in the kitchen! 

Ingredients:  (The quantity of eggs used depends on the amount of people you are serving)
Hard boiled small eggs (don't overboil your eggs, otherwise the yolks turn green)
2 lbs. ground pork breakfast sausage (I buy the tube)
1 bottle Catalina or Red French/Russian Dressing
Seasoned regular or panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Keep hands moist with water as you work sausage meat around each hard boiled egg.
- Form into egg-shaped ovals.  Try not to make your finished "eggs" too big. 
- Roll each sausage/egg oval thoroughly in bread crumbs to coat.
- Drizzle dressing on top once you place them on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until brown and crisp and sausage meat is cooked.
- The sausage may crack open revealing some egg.  Always a good thing! 
- Serve either warm or cool with remaining dressing as a dipping sauce on the side.
- Sometimes, I slice the eggs open to add a little interest to the plate. 
- A dash of paprika on the exposed yolk is always a nice touch.  I also add a twist of ground kosher or sea salt on top of the eggs.
- In my household, we always make sure a good bottle of hot sauce is in sight.  Enjoy!

**  My mother cuts her hard boiled eggs into quarters when making this dish.  I've made it with quartered eggs or whole eggs.  I prefer using small whole eggs because of the way I plate this dish.  It's really up to you!  Have fun bringing this quick and easy family tradition into your home! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"En-DIVE Right Into These Salads"

Endive "Salads"  (Serves 8 Guests)

I've learned that the best way to get my husband to eat more salad is to make them interesting.  I try, every single day, to make my salads memorable.  Texture, flavor and protein are key!  And, what's better than a salad you can grab with your hand?  For years, I made these endive "salads" with crab, but, more recently, I've modified my existing recipe to include chicken for those allergic to shellfish.  The recipe for the salad filling is exactly the same either way you prepare it with the exception of the main protein.  These are perfect before your main dinner and make awesome hors d'oeurves at cocktail parties.  They make great leftovers and are a wonderful conversation piece when entertaining.  I hope you en-DIVE right in and impress your family and friends with these unforgettable Two Bite Wonders.   

6 large Belgium endives (washed)
2 cans of jumbo lump crab meat (or one package of Perdue Fit & Easy boneless chicken breasts)
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
White wine vinegar
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh dill (optional)

- Chop peppers into very small square cubes. 
- Finely chop 1 of the Belgium endives.
- Drain 2 cans of jumbo lump crab meat.  Then finely chop all of the crab meat.  (Can be subsituted with chicken).
- In a large bowl, blend crab meat, peppers, and endive.
- Add to this bowl the juice of 1 half lemon (fresh juice), a small splash of olive oil and a heaping teaspoon of white wine vinegar.   Toss this salad filling.
- Salt and pepper to taste. 
- Cut bottoms off of the remaining 5 endives, and separate only the largest, most attractive leaves onto a serving plate.
- With a small spoon, scoop the salad filling into each of the endive leaves.  The leaves sometimes tip, so be creative with plating or place each one tightly against another.
- If serving these at a party, I always garnish with fresh dill or rosemary.  Enjoy!!

(If using chicken instead of crab, simply cook the chicken in a skillet on medium high heat until cooked all the way through.  Usually about 4 minutes on each side.  Do not boil the chicken because it becomes fibrous and will not chop well.  Once cooked, refrigerate it until cold and then chop it into small square cubes.  Remember to allow the chicken to get to room temperature before chilling.  If you are feeling bold and decide to make a mix of crab and chicken "salads" to accommodate anyone with a food allergy, always remember to use different mixing bowls, utensils and serving plates!)

It is always ideal to prepare the salad filling the night before to allow the acids to work their magic.  Also, place the endive in the freezer up to 30 minutes before slicing to make a crispier crunch and to prevent wilting upon serving.   Taste the salad filling before you scoop it into the leaves.  It should pack a nice punch and be quite savory.  If necessary, add the remaining juice from the half lemon and a splash of white wine vinegar with a little salt and pepper to taste.  If in a time crunch, you can use Perdue Short Cuts (original style) for the chicken salad, but I find it can be stubborn in absorbing the acids.  Finally, any leftover salad filling (crab or chicken) is absolutely delicious on bread for sandwiches or scooped up onto pita chips.  I've even toted the filling in a tupperware and eaten it plain when on the go during my busy day.  It lasts up to 7 days in the refrigerator.  What a time saver!  That's a win for the working woman ... or the busy mom!

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Don't Let Your Man Go Without a Little Mango - Grilled Shrimp with Tropical Salsa"

If it's not what they call fresh salsa, then it has sugar.  Translation:  It's just not that good for you!  I put my own spin on this time-honored chip-dipping garnish by making a unique low sugar, low carb, crunchy, sweet-n-spicy version of it.  My tropical "salsa" goes over big at our parties.  It keeps well in the refrigerator too, which means time saving leftovers!!  Another working girl's dream.  Below is my recipe for grilled shrimp (coconut optional) with tropical salsa.  The salsa recipe stays the same whether you're complementing some fresh seafood or chicken or if you're dunking chips into it.  I use half a batch with crunchy chips for a Sunday afternoon snack with my hubby and use the rest the next night on top of any grilled or braised protein of my choice.  I would be honored if you try it at your next fiesta.

Tropical Salsa:
4 (4-ounce) tropical fruit cups, drained and diced.  I prefer Del Monte.
2 mangos, peeled & diced.
2 tbsps fresh cilantro leaves, rolled and coarsely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 small jalapeno, ribs removed, seeded and minced (WEAR GLOVES)
Kosher or sea salt

24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined.
Olive oil cooking spray
Salt and pepper
Chile powder (a tiny pinch)(optional)
1 (8-ounce) bag shredded coconut (optional)

- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- For the mango salsa:  Chop drained fruit into small pieces. Combine the fruit and remaining salsa ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until chilled.
- For the shrimp:  Place coconut on baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until coconut turns light brown. Set aside.  Toasted coconut adds something to this recipe.  Sometimes I make some shrimp plain and some with coconut. 
- Spear 3 shrimp on each bamboo skewer.  I prefer spearing 3 shrimp on 2 skewers each to prevent spinning while grilling.
- Grill the shrimp on the barbie, mate!  They take about 2-3 minutes total.  Do not overcook shrimp or they get chewy.  Or, if no grill in sight, heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with olive oil cooking spray.  Place shrimp skewers on grill pan. Cook shrimp for 2 minutes per side or until shrimp turns pink.  I lightly salt and pepper them on each side and sprinkle a super tiny dash of chile powder on them. 
- Place shredded coconut on serving plate. Remove shrimp from skewers and do a quick roll in the toasted coconut.
- Place salsa in a decorative bowl and serve with shrimp skewers immediately.

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Which Came First?"

It's almost been a year since I got married ... and bought my first house ... and started at a new firm (all within THE SAME MONTH).  Needless to say, over this past year, I've had some huge life changes to grapple with.  I've always prided myself on my love of cooking, love of eating and my immeasurable love of entertaining.  Nothing brings me more satisfaction than to show others how I feel about them by feeding them.  With a busy career, I let 8 pounds pack on since my wedding to the point that my gown no longer fit.  So, I joined Weight Watchers and am happy to say that I'm down 27 lbs. in just shy of three months and my gown is about 4 sizes too big!!  I've modified my food shopping lists and menus to reflect more healthful options and, for the most part, aim to put whole proteins and veggies on my daily dinner plates.  What's pictured above is my husband's version of a dish that I created that I call "Which Came First?"  He's a voracious eater and very athletic, so I always prepare two breasts with two eggs for him.  A calorie and "point"wise mindful eater like myself only eats one breast and one egg with the asparagus.  I hope you enjoy this dish.  The best part about it is that it's a One Pan Wonder and can be made in about 12 minutes.  A working girl's dream! 

Boneless chicken breasts
Asparagus (bottoms trimmed)
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

- In a large grill pan, preheat the evenly spread olive oil on medium high for one minute.
- Place as many chicken breasts as you need in one side of the grill pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.  The grill pan guarantees perfect grill marks every time.  No pressing down with a spatula, which dries out the meat!
- Once you flip the breasts the first time, add the asparagus spears to the other side of the pan, rolling them in the olive oil and lightly salting and peppering them and the chicken to taste.  These cook quickly and will be done in just a couple of minutes.  You'll know they are done when they feel slightly softened and are a vibrant green.
- When the chicken is fully cooked, remove and plate the breasts. 
- While the chicken is "resting" and the asparagus is finishing up, fry up as many eggs as you would like in the same pan.  The eggs take on the flavor of the juicy chicken, the olive oil and the asparagus.  A runnier egg makes this dish more flavorful and interesting. 
- Once the eggs are done, ever-so-carefully transfer them with a spatula onto each breast.
- Serve the asparagus on the side.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

Real Meals for the Working Woman