So long, and thanks for all the fish! – and chicken, and rice, and vegetables

We wanted to apologize for not keeping up the last few weeks. We had a major home disaster (pipe froze and burst in the attic) and have been busy cleaning up and trying to put our home back together. It has given us a chance to reflect and we’ve decided to wrap up the blog.

We wanted to write a brief post to say thank you to everyone.  After 4 years, 240 posts, 155 followers (THANK YOU!!!!), 190 comments and 42,635 views, we feel we have shared our love of cooking with you and yours. We have accomplished the original goals that we had for the blog and are ready to take on new challenges both in the kitchen and in our lives. We want to thank each and every one of your for your participation in this journey with us.

Live more, Love more, Eat better! Cooking is an opportunity to supply a fundamental need to another human being. When you share food you love, you are giving one of the greatest gifts there is. Most of all, don’t be afraid to try new things in the kitchen. Be fearless. Enjoy your time in the kitchen, and around the table with those you love.

Fin.

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Sharla’s Broccoli and Rice Casserole by Justin Wilson

Broccoli & Rice Casserole

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 bunch broccoli, rinsed and broken into flowerets (also use the stalks)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms or 8 ozs canned mushrooms, drained
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Louisiana hot sauce or ground cayenne pepper to taste
  • 2 T margarine, butter, or shortening
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

Cook the rice. Place the broccoli, mushrooms, onions, parsley, green onions, and garlic in a 4-quart saucepan, cover with water, and season with salt and hot sauce. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat until the broccoli is tender, about 25 minutes. Reserve 2 cups of pot liquor before draining and set aside. Drain through a strainer with small holes to catch all the chopped seasonings and broccoli flowerets, and let cool. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Once cool, peel the outer skin from the broccoli stalks and chop into small pieces. Melt the margarine in the same saucepan over medium heat, and mix in the flour, stirring constantly, until all the flour is blended in with the margarine; don’t let the flour brown. Add 1 1/2 cups of pot liquor and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in half the cheddar cheese until melted, then stir in the cooked rice. Add the broccoli mixture and stir thoroughly. If the mixture is too thick, add some more pot liquor. Turn into a 9×9-inch greased casserole dish, and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheddar and the mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Justin Wilson's Homegrown Louisana CookinYield: 6-8 servings

From Justin Wilson’s Homegrown Louisiana Cookin’

Katie: We are having some icy weather in North Carolina, so I thought it was time to go through the freezer and see what we could cook! We had some frozen broccoli and onions, so I decided to see if I could find a broccoli casserole recipe that I had the ingredients for since we weren’t able to go out and buy any additional items. We had most of the ingredients for this one, with the exception of green onions and cheddar cheese. I did, however, have some cheddar/mozzarella cheese sticks and lots of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Sounded good to me! This one was a little difficult for me to make, but it came together nicely in the end.

Gray: This turned out to be a good recipe even if we had to make a lot of tweaks.  It tasted good and was very hearty.  I think a lot of that came from the brown rice that we used.   I hope you give it a try.  Enjoy!

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Weight Watchers Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Weight Watchers Banana Muffins

  • 1 cup light, artificially sweetened vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quick oats
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat 36 mini muffin holes with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, milk, oats, vanilla extract, and egg. Set aside 5 minutes for oats to soften and then stir in banana.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir flour mixture into yogurt mixture to moisten ingredients (do not beat – the batter will be very thick). Reserve 1 T chips; stir in remaining chips.

Spoon batter by heaping tablespoons into prepared muffin holes; sprinkle each with a few reserved chocolate chips. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-18 minutes.

Yield: 36 mini muffins

Serving: 1 mini muffin, 1 Weight Watchers Point

From: Weight Watchers Weekly

Katie: I’ve been on a weight loss path since last April, and am slowly losing weight. This week we wanted to share a recipe I made from the weekly that is handed out at the Weight Watchers meeting each week. Bananas are my favorite fruit and I love banana muffins. I wanted to try this, but without the chocolate chips. They were easy to make, and with the yogurt, oats, and bananas, are actually quite filling. They were best hot from the oven, but were still great the next day. I didn’t try freezing them as there weren’t any left after sharing with my local meeting. We hope you enjoy!

Gray: I thought these were tasty and very hearty.  I think they needed the extra sweetness that would have come from the chocolate chips.  They were good but not my favorites.  That being said I think they are a lot better for you than other options, and I would definitely eat them again.

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Bon Appetit’s Homemade Pizza, Grandma-Pie Style

Grandma Style PizzaDough

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for surface

Combine yeast and 1½ cups warm water (105–110°) in a large bowl; let stand until yeast starts to foam, about 10 minutes.

Mix in 2 Tbsp. oil, then salt and 2 cups flour. Add another 2 cups flour, a cup at a time, mixing until incorporated and a shaggy dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft, smooth, and elastic, 10–12 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill 24 hours.

Coat an 18×13” rimmed baking sheet with remaining ½ cup oil. Gently and gradually stretch dough until it reaches the edges of baking sheet. (If dough springs back or is stiff to work with, let it rest 10 minutes before continuing. You may need to let it rest more than once.)

Cover dough on baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (but not too warm!—about 70° is ideal for yeast to grow) until it is puffed and full of air bubbles, 30–40 minutes.

Yield: One pizza dough, about 6 servings

Grandma Pizza DoughSauce

  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic cloves
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pulse tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, oil, and basil in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth (some texture is okay); season with salt and pepper.

Yield: about 5 cups

Pizza

  • Grandma-Style Pizza Dough (recipe above)
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 2½ cups)
  • cups Sauce (recipe above)
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving; optional)

Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 525° or as high as oven will go.

Once dough has risen on baking sheet, top with mozzarella, and dot pie with tomato sauce; sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Bake pie until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes.

Yield: 1 pizza, about 6 servings

From Bon Appetit Magzine, September 2014 edition; Recipe by Alfia Muzio

Gray: This was really easy and it is something that you can do all the work for ahead of time.  I made the dough the night before and made the sauce in the morning and sliced all the toppings.  Then I just got it out to stretch and rise so it would be ready when folks arrived.  Then we topped it and baked it.  While we were waiting for it to cool, we had our salad and poured our wine and then enjoyed the pizza.  It was a fun and easy dinner party, and making it a decorate your own pizza means than none go away dissatisfied.

Katie: First off, don’t let the multiple steps fool you; this one wasn’t all that difficult to pull together! Secondly, we are happy to share one of the recipes from our big binder of things that we have cut out from magazines or printed and have never made. We had so much fun having our own pizza party, and let everyone put the toppings they desired on their section of the pizza. We only had five people, so we made the last section cheese only. Everyone seemed to love it and we would definitely do it again. Enjoy!

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Shorbat Ads (Lentil Soup)

Lentil SoupSoup

  • 1 lb red lentils
  • 3 pints meat or chicken stock
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 t ground cumin (optional)
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)

Garnish

  • 1 1/2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 T sunflower oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • small bunch of parsley or dill, finely chopped
  • 2 pita breads, cut into triangles and opened out
  • 1-2 lemons, cut into wedges

Put the lentils in a large pan with the stock and bring to a boil. Remove any scum (with a ladle or large spoon) and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils disintegrate. Add salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne, if wished, when the lentils begin to soften. Add water, if necessary, to this the soup to a light creamy consistency.

To make the garnish, fry the onion in oil till it is very brown – almost caramelized. Add the garlic and coriander and fry until the aroma rises.

Toast the pita bread in the oven until it is crisp and brown, then crumble into pieces. Serve the soup, garnishing each serving with the spiced fried onion. Sprinkle with parsley or dill and accompany with lemon wedges and the toasted bread.

Variations

  • Add 4 oz vermicelli, 30 minutes before the end.
  • Add 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 2 T tomato puree.
  • Add 1 lb chard or spinach. Wash the leaves, remove the stems, cut the leaves into shreds, and add 20 minutes before the end.
  • Add the juice of 1 lemon or 3 T wine vinegar.
  • Add meat to the stock to make the soup a meal in itself

Mediterranean CookeryYield: 6 or more

From Mediterranean Cookery

Katie: Gray had made some oven-roasted turkey and we were looking for a side to go with it. We’ve both been wanting to make something with lentils, and this seemed like a good time. We had a little trouble finding the lentils and ended up having to get the kind labeled organic that was twice as expensive in order to have red lentils. The green ones are larger and we were afraid they would take longer to cook since the recipe called for red lentils. The recipe was very simple, and we didn’t garnish it with anything! However, we ended up cutting the turkey into small pieces and stirring it into our lentil soup. This modification was superb and when we had the leftovers we did the same thing again!

A big thanks to one of our friends, who suggested putting the turkey into the soup. Thank goodness we have friends who are willing to try our recipe experiments with us! 🙂

Gray: As Katie said, we did tweak this a little bit and skip the garnishes because we were making it with something else.  This is a super simple recipe and it only takes a few minutes to get ready.  I did some more reading after making this and all of the lentil soups I found are basically the same.  Lentils, stock, and some seasonings, plus some kind of toppings.  I am going to make some with a smoked ham hock and bacon topping next….  I loved how hearty this was without having a lot of ingredients, and without being complicated. You could definitely serve this as either a main or side dish, and it is flexible enough to serve at a casual dinner or you could dress it up for a dinner party.  Enjoy!

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Florentine Lasagne

Florentine Lasagne Slice

  • 12 oz bulk Italian sausage or turkey Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 t dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 6 dried lasagne noodles
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 (15 oz) ricotta cheese or 2 cups cottage cheese, drained
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 8 oz sliced mozzarella cheese

Florentine Lasagne1. Preheat oven to 375°F. For meat sauce: In a large saucepan, cook sausage and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency.

2. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain again. For filling: In a medium bowl, combine egg, ricotta cheese, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Stir in spinach.

3. To assemble, in a an ungreased 12 x 17 1/2 x 2-inch baking pan, arrange three of the cooked noodles. Spread with half of the filling. Top with half of the meat sauce and half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering noodles, filling, meat sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

4. Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Ultimate ItalianYield: 8 servings

From Better Homes & Gardens’ Ultimate Italian Magazine

Katie: One of our friends planned to have a dinner and a movie party at his place, but ended up having to work all day. We decided to help out by making something that could be assembled at our house and then cooked there. This recipe was perfect for this! I wanted to make a lighter version, so I used turkey sausage and cottage cheese, and it turned out great. This was probably the best lasagna recipes I have ever made, as well as one of the best I’ve eaten anywhere! I loved how it wasn’t as heavy and the spinach made a delicious flavor. There were five of us for dinner, and we ended up eating this whole pan of lasagna. (In our defense, we didn’t have any side dishes.) We think this would go great with a salad or some garlic bread. We can’t wait to make this recipe again!

Gray: I had fun helping with this one and especially with the eating!  It is a really great recipe and it was much lighter version, but it doesn’t sacrifice any of the flavor.  Since we don’t keep Italian seasoning, I mixed up a quick blend of basil, oregano, marjoram, parsley, garlic powder and some red chili flakes along with a couple of  herbs that smelled like they would go well in the lasagna.  It was a highly scientific process.  I agree with Katie that this is one of the best lasagnas that we have had.  I want to make this again – and soon.

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Couscous with Fresh Vegetables

Couscous with Fresh Vegetables

  • 1 (6 oz) package couscous
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped red potatoes
  • 1 cup chopped yellow squash
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 1 t coriander
  • 1 t salt
  • pepper to taste

Prepare the couscous using the package directions. Saute the broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and squash in the olive oil in a large skillet until tender. Mix the lemon juice, garlic, mustard, coriander, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Combine the sauteed vegetables, couscous, and lemon juice mixture in a medium bowl and mix well. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Seaboard to SideboardYield: 6 servings

From Seaboard to Sideboard 
(Azalea Festival Official Cookbook – A collection of recipes from the Junior League of Wilmington, NC)

Katie: We had some fresh vegetables left over and I was getting tired of making the same thing over and over. I looked in this cookbook, and found a simple recipe that sounded like something I had never tried before. We had bought some couscous the last time we were at our local Mediterranean market, but had not yet had a chance to use it, so this was a perfect recipe! I didn’t have yellow squash, but decided that the zucchini I had would be fine. I halved the recipe, since it would just be the two of us and it sounded like a recipe that was best eaten fresh. One note I have is not to put the shredded carrots in the pan with the other vegetables at first. The other vegetables need more time to cook, and my shredded carrots stuck to the pan by the time the other vegetables were done. Other than that, this recipe turned out great and is a great way to use a mixture of vegetables!

Gray:  This was really nice and it was fast to make. I would definitely like to have this again.  It had a nice bright flavor and was a great way to appreciate the fresh vegetables.  I hope you enjoy!

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Marcella Hazan’s Minestrone (Vegetable Soup)

Minestrone Soup

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white beans, if available or 1 1/2 cups canned cannellini beans or Great Northern beans or 3/4 dried white beans, cooked
  • 2 cups diced zucchini ( about 2 medium zucchini)
  • 1 cup diced green beans
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 6 cups Homemade Meat broth or 2 cups canned beef broth mixed with 4 cups water
  • the crust from a 1 or 2 pound piece of Parmesan cheese, carefully scraped clean (optional)
  • 2/3 cups canned Italian tomatoes, with their juice
  • 1/3 cup  freshly grated Parmesan cheese

20141227_204342Choose a stockpot large enough for all the ingredients. Put in the oil, butter and sliced onion and cook over medium-low heat until the onion wilts and is pale gold in color but not browned. Add the diced carrots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice. Repeat the procedure with the celery, potatoes, white beans (if you are using fresh beans), zucchini, and green beans, cooking each one a few minutes and stirring. Then add the shredded cabbage and cook for about 6 minutes giving the pot an occasional stir.

Add the broth, the cheese crust, the tomatoes and their juice, and a little bit of salt. (Go easy on the salt especially if you are using canned broth. You can correct the seasoning later.) Cover and cook at a very slow boil for at least 3 hours. If necessary, you can stop the cooking at any time and resume it later on. Minestrone should never be thin and watery, so cook until it is soupy thick. If you should find that the soup is becoming too thick, you can add another cup of homemade broth or water. Do not add more canned broth.

Fifteen minutes before the soup is done, add the canned or cooked dry beans (if you are not using fresh ones). Just before turning off the heat, remove the cheese crust and swirl in the grated cheese, then taste and correct for salt.

Classic Italian CookbookYield: 6 to 8 servings

From: The Classic Italian Cook Book by Marcella Hazan

Katie: My family decided to take a departure from traditional Christmas meals by having soup and sandwiches. My contribution was this minestrone soup. I’ve always wanted to make it, and I thought a recipe from this cookbook would be most like traditional minestrone soup. It turned out so well! I didn’t think it looked as pretty as some that I have seen in restaurants, but the taste was just phenomenal. Due to the way you cook it, even the cabbage still had some texture. I would definitely make this again anytime I want a delicious vegetable soup. The only drawback is that it does take time to chop all the vegetables, but there aren’t any hard procedures to try to master. So, as long as you have enough time, you’re good to go!

Gray: I though this was great.  As Katie said, the only drawback to the recipe is the time involved.  It is very hearty, more like a stew than a soup, but I would make this again in a heartbeat.  It is straightforward to make, but a little time consuming, and requires a while to cook.  If you had space to have  a second person chopping in the kitchen it might help some, but it is basically, chop-add, chop-add…  If you like minestrone, give this a try.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Butterscotch Blondies

Butterscotch Blondies

  • 9 ozs all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 2 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 10 T unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup egg substitute (or 3 eggs)
  • Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Stir with a whisk.

3. Place butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook 6 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Pour into a small bowl, and cool for 10 minutes. Combine butter and egg substitute (or eggs), stirring with a whisk. Pour butter mixture over flour mixture and stir until moistened. Spoon batter into a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Smooth top with spatula. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 48 squares.

Cooking Light Quick BakingYield: 4 dozen

From Cooking Light Quick Baking Magazine

Katie: I wanted to make something different for Christmas. I got to looking in this cookbook and found these butterscotch blondies. I was intrigued by the brown butter and wanted to give it a try. I do not keep egg substitute in the house and did not want to buy it for 3/4 cup, so I looked up the conversion to eggs and used 3 eggs. This recipe was definitely a winner and came out looking like the picture in the cookbook! I always think that is a good sign. When we tasted the blondies, we were so impressed. They are crunchy around the outside edges and the top is crisper. The inside was a wonderful gooey texture, which sometimes indicates not done, but since the toothpick came out clean I think they are supposed to taste like this! Whether or not the gooey inside was intended by the recipe, I would make them the same way again because they were so good!!

Gray: Wow, these are great!  I could eat them all day, every day… That’s probably not a good thing, but if you want to have some great blondies, make these now.  I’m not sure how this recipe came out of a Cooking Light publication, but these are fantastic.  I can’t say enough about how good these are.

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Cabbage Casserole

Cabbage Casserole

  • 1 medium cabbage, cut into thin wedges
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2/3 cup (2.6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp chili sauce

Combine cabbage wedges and water in  a dutch oven; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain well; place cabbage wedges in an ungreased 13×9-inch baking dish.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk; cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Stir in salt and pepper; pour over cabbage. Bake uncovered at 375°F for 15 minutes.

Combine cheese and remaining 4 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Spread over cabbage. Bake 10 more minutes. Serve hot.

Ultimate Southern Living CookbookYield 8 servings

From: The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Gray: This was from the section entitled “how to take vegetables and make them not healthy.”  Just kidding, but it definitely is rich and tastes fantastic. I think you could give broccoli or cauliflower a similar treatment and have a delicious dish. This is not a healthy eating or light option dish, but if you want a treat I say go for it. I had to substitute orange bell peppers for the green, so it was probably a touch sweeter, but other than that it was good, and very easy to make.  Enjoy!

Katie: This was tasty, but it is a very different flavor that other things I have eaten. It might be because when Gray said he wanted to make cabbage, this is NOT what I envisioned. All that being said, if you want a rich, cheesy cabbage dish, this is it!

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