Category Archives: Value Meals

Skinny Tortilla Soup…A Hominy Story

1 cup is less than 2 Weight Watcher points but you don't need to be watching your calories to appreciate a yummy bowl...or two!

1 cup is 2 Weight Watcher points but you don’t need to be watching your calories to appreciate a yummy bowl…or two!

I’m a soup girl. I could devote an entire blog to my soup creations. I could eat a bowl of any soup any time of day. There is something comforting to me while I have a large pot steaming away all day while I go about other chores, visiting the pot to add an ingredient, give it a stir or to simply taste its progress.

Though a mystery to my Mom, as I was not a fan as a child. I would turn my nose up to anything considered a soup or stew opting for a PB&J instead. I’d pout, make terrible faces and whine until she would cave and excuse me from my bowl.

Despite that I deserve paybacks from my own children, to my pleasure, they too, share my (Now as an adult) love for bowls of anything soupy.

This recipe really got its inspiration from a blog called http://www.skinnykitchen.com/recipes/youll-love-our-heavenly-chicken-tortilla-soup/ I of course added my own twist, but truly, this was the base recipe I used for my own

First, before I continue onto my recipe, let’s get a little lesson on Hominy. These corny nuggets are what really make this the BEST Tortilla Soup ever!

Why Hello, Hominy, welcome to my kitchen.

Why Hello, Hominy, welcome to my kitchen.

According to Wikipedia, Hominy consists of dried maize kernels which have been treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization….okay, lesson over…just know this stuff is really cool…indians used it too…so it must be magic!

Here it is, the healthy, yummy, lick your bowl clean recipe:

Ingredients for Skinny Tortilla Soup

1 large or 2 small chopped onions

2 stalks celery sliced

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

2 corn tortillas chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon quality cumin (more to taste)

1 teaspoon Mexican chili powder (regular is fine too)

1/2 teaspoon smoked spicy paprika (offers a really nice smokey spicy flavor, I found mine at Penzy’s)

3 TBS tomato past (save the rest of the can in a ziplock baggie in your freezer for later use)

1 15oz can Fire Roasted Tomatoes juice and all

1 Can green chilis, drained

1 15oz can black beans drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can Yellow hominy drained and rinsed

2 cups of cooked lean chicken

Juice and zest of 1 lime plus more for garnish

In a large stockpot sweat your onions and celery in a bit of EVOO for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and chopped corn tortillas. Sweat for another couple of minutes. Add spices, tomato paste, broth, tomatoes, beans, chilis and bring to a slow bubble. Turn back heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Add hominy, and chicken. Simmer for another 10 minutes taste and adjust seasonings. I believe I ended up adding more chili powder and cumin. Just before serving, add the zest 1/2 lime into soup and juice of whole lime.

Garnish with cilantro, baked corn tortilla strips and a wedge of lime

Baked Corn Tortilla Strips

Simply cut 2 corn tortillas into strips, spray sheet pan with cooking spray, lightly spray tops of tortillas and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees until edges begin turning golden, about 10 minutes or less.

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Rice Cooker Fiesta Mexican Rice

  

Recently, I added a rice cooker to my collection of useful kitchen appliances. I didn’t spend much, in fact, this little guy was under $20.00. Not sure if It would end up in the appliance graveyard or a much appreciated purchase, I was reluctant to leave us eating hotdogs and pasta for the week so, I bought the second cheapest model.

To my great surprise, I am in love with my rice cooker! Like a crock pot, this is a busy mom’s dream! Fill it and forget about it. Perfect rice in about 30 minutes. 

Unfortunately, I have not found many rice cooker recipes that impress me. So, today, after spending too much time browsing the internet for a tasty Mexican Rice recipe to serve for a Fiesta night, I made my own.

Slice a lime and crack open a Corona, this recipe deserves a toast!

Note: Recipes Yields about 6 cups cooked.

All the goodies for our recipe

 

Ingredients

1 Cup white uncooked rice
EVOO
1 med onion diced
2 cloves garlic diced
1 Can (about 15 oz) of diced tomatoes (I used fired roasted)
1 small can of diced green chilies
1 Can of beans (about 15 oz) drained and rinsed (pinto or black beans are perfect)
1 Cup chicken broth (use vegetable broth for a vegetarian recipe)
1 Cup of corn (I used a leftover ear of grilled corn removed from cob, adds great flavor, but frozen would be fine)
2 tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp of Smoked Hot Paprika (if you do not have, substitute with cayenne)
1/2 tsp dried Oregano

Directions:

In a frying pan, brown rice in EVOO to make it toasty. This is what adds the nutty flavor to traditional Mexican rice. Add onions and garlic, stirring often until onions are beginning to turn translucent.

Your rice should turn golden brown, and the onions should become translucent

 

 Lightly spray inner part of rice cooker with cooking spray and add rice/onion mixture. Combine remaining ingredients, set cooker to cook.

Add all ingredients into Rice Cooker....Whoa, careful, this baby sure is full!

 

 

 When cooker turns to warm setting, give a stir and return cover. Let stand for another 10 minutes.

Look at that fluffy spicy goodness...Ole I say

 

Serve with fresh cilantro and sour cream or shredded cheese if desired.

French Dips with Au Jus and creamy Horseradish Dill sauce

Or “Ahhh Juice” as my 5-year old calls it, after he slurps the remaining jus from the little bowl.

Any time I find roast beef on sale at my deli, and sometimes even when it is not, I make these toasty sandwiches, topped with swiss cheese and a creamy horseradish Dill sauce. Served with a side of flavorful Au Jus for dunking, it’s sandwich utopia!

Creamy horseradish Dill Sauce:
This can be made ahead of time, and should be chilled at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.
1/3 cup sour cream
2 heaping TBS of mayonnaise
2-3 TBS prepared horseradish (depending on preference)
1 TBS fresh snipped dill (or 1 tsp of dried)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill until ready to serve.

Ingredients for Au Jus
Makes 4 – 1/2 cup servings for dipping
EVOO
1 tsp butter
1 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic finely diced
1 TBS flour
Splash of Red Wine
2 Cups Beef Broth
A few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce

In a medium sauce pan, heat about 1 TBS EVOO and 1 tsp butter. Add Shallot, and allow to begin to soften stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, careful not to burn for about a minute. Sprinkle flour into onion garlic mixture and cook for about another minute. Add a healthy splash of red wine and let cook down until it begins to reduce. Slowly add beef broth, bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare French Dips.

Ingredients For the French Dip:
Recipe Yields 4 Sandwiches

1 loaf french bread from your deli, divided into 4 sections and the cut crosswise making a top and bottom
1 pound Deli sliced Roast Beef

While Au Jus is simmering, toast the bread in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 6 minutes, remove from oven. With a pair of tongs, dip roast beef into au jus about 20 seconds and place on the bottom part of sandwich. On the top, spread a generous layer of horseradish Dill Sauce, assemble sandwich cut in half for easier handling. Pour 1/2 cup Au Jus into a small container for dipping. I prefer to strain the Au Jus before serving removing the shallot and garlic, this is optional

Italian Minestrone Soup

2 cups of hearty soup is only 188 calories, 1.7 grams of fat, 9.7 grams protein and 9.4 grams fiber

The New Year is well on its way and many of us are paying attention to our diets after indulging in so many holiday goodies. This Italian Minestrone Soup recipe is so hearty and satisfying, you don’t even realize you are eating a big bowl of Healthy Goodness! A generous 2-cups of steamy heaven is only 188 calories, 1.7grams of fat, and packs in 9.7 grams of protein and 9.4 grams fiber….

But how does it taste you ask? It’s an Italian festival in your mouth! Tomato, garlic, Italian seasoning, hearty whole grain pasta and savory vegetables satisfy all of your cravings. With these numbers, one can even afford to grate some quality parmesan cheese over the top!

Use a large stock pot as this recipe makes at least 8, 2 cup servings

Ingredients:
Cooking spray (I used Olive Oil flavor)
1 Cup diced onion
1 1/2 cup sliced celery (about 3 large stalks)
1 1/2 cup Carrots sliced (I used frozen, straight from the Freezer)
1 Tbs diced garlic (I like the jarred as it’s much easier)
1 – 15 oz can low sodium or no salt added diced tomatoes
1 – 15 oz can chickpeas drained and rinsed
8 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable to make this vegetarian)
1 6-oz can no salt added tomato paste
1-2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (to taste)
1 1/2 cup sliced fresh zucchini
1 1/2 cup frozen green beans (no need to defrost)
2 cups loose leaf frozen spinach. The 10-oz frozen block may be used but it will need to be defrosted and drained of juices.
1 cup uncooked whole wheat shell pasta
Sea Salt to taste if desired.

Garnish with quality parmesan cheese freshly grated (this does change nutrition information)

Spray cooking spray on the bottom of stock pot. Preheat on med-high heat, add onions and celery. Let them sweat, turn down heat if needed to prevent browning, about 3 minutes, add frozen sliced carrots (or fresh). Stirring often, allow vegetables to become slightly tender. Add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add tomatoes, juice and all, chick peas, broth, tomato paste and italian seasoning. Stir and bring to a gentle boil for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, clean and slice zucchini. Add zucchini, green beans (no need to defrost), spinach and pasta. Soup is done when pasta is done. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and crusty bread if desired.

This recipe makes a lot, put into individual serving dishes and freeze. Perfect to take to work for a healthy lunch or take out and defrost in the refrigerator the night before to accompany your dinner

Ham and Cheese Pockets

Ham, sharp cheddar cheese, spicy brown mustard and refrigerated biscuits are a tasty dinner sure to please the family and help you use up the leftovers.

As the holidays have come to an end, I find that there are many tasty ingredients in my refrigerator worthy of being showcased. With a bit of help from store-bought biscuits, an impressive and easy meal was made. Once you’ve tried these, the filling options are endless! I simply served these pockets with a side salad for a complete and nutritious meal.

Yields 8 Pockets

Ingredients:

1 Package of large refrigerator biscuits (I used Pillsbury Grands biscuits)
2 cups diced ham
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
Spicy Brown Mustard
1 egg
water
sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, make your egg wash by whisking 1 egg and a splash of water to thin, set aside. Lightly flour surface. Roll a refrigerated biscuit to a 6 inch circle. Smear a thin layer of mustard in the center. Place 1/4 cup diced ham and 1 oz cheese just off from the center. Dampen bottom edge of biscuit with either water or I used the egg wash as it was next to me. Fold in half gently so not to tear dough. Gently seal with a fork. With a sharp knife, make 2-3 slits in the top. Lightly brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the dough is a golden brown. Let cool slightly and serve.

These are so easy and will disappear just as quickly as they were made. I did, make a few with ham, diced green apples, cheese and Dijon mustard. These were the kids favorite! Other ideas for filling would be pizza sauce, fixings and mozzarella cheese. Or, as a friend of mine suggested, use pie filling, and sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar for dessert.

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut, a Polish tale

A Polish Tradition, Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

In our town, Grand Rapids Michigan, we just had our yearly event Pulaski Days. It’s our polish holiday and quite frankly, one does not have to be Polish to appreciate the wonderful food and many halls available to quench one’s thirst. It is a much-anticipated weekend by Polish and non-Polish residents of our town. Our own Westside is where these jolly events take place with many authentic dishes including Kielbasa and Sauerkraut.

The Pulaski Days is an annual local three-day celebration of General Casimir Pulaski in Grand Rapids, Michigan where the normally private Polish Halls open their doors to the public. The celebration takes place on the first full weekend in October. Most of the halls involved (14 total in the Grand Rapids area) were established in the mid-to-late 19th century.

The Polish Halls use this event as a fund-raiser to maintain their non-profit organizations. The celebration of Polish heritage draws attendance from throughout Michigan as well as other areas of the country with populations of Polish origin.

Since I work every weekend, I missed out on the terrific food and have been craving some yummy polish kielbasa. So,on my way home from an appointment the other day, I pulled into a very well-known grocery store on the west side, Ralph’s. It’s not a fancy market, not at all. The neighborhood has seen better days, but they make their own kielbasa from an old family recipe that has been passed down through generations. There are many locals who will debate which of the old markets on the westside has the best recipe for Kielbasa. I wouldn’t dare disagree with any of them, but Ralph’s was right on my route home, and my obvious choice. I am not disappointed at all!

Though I have enjoyed in the past, simply browning my Kielbasa and adding the sauerkraut to a crock pot and cooking it slow for hours, my boys did not care for the sour flavors and left my kraut untouched. This time, I decided to make it a bit sweeter. To my surprise, even my little one ate his right up! Success!

Yields: 6 or more servings

Ingredients:
2 lbs fresh Kielbasa (I opted for the extra garlic flavor this time)
1 32 oz package sauerkraut drained and rinsed with cold water
1 whole onion sliced
EVOO to saute onion
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon allspice
Fresh Ground pepper to taste
Do not add salt to this recipe

Cut kielbasa into 3 inch pieces. Heat a large frying pan and 1 tsp of EVOO and add Kielbasa. Brown sausage about 3 minutes and turn to brown other side. It does not have to cook through as it will finish in roasting pan later. Remove sausage and set aside. Add more EVOO if needed to saute onions. Be sure not to burn. When onions are beginning to soften, add chicken broth, brown sugar, Dijon mustard and allspice. Whisk together until sugar and mustard are well incorporated. Bring to a boil. Add sauerkraut and kielbasa. Gently mix all ingredients, remove from heat and transfer to an electric roasting pan or crock pot. Heat at 250 degrees for at least 3 hours and up to 6. Serve together or as many of the Polish like to do, serve on a piece of rye bread with extra mustard.

Note: This may also be prepared in the oven at 250 degrees. Cover 9×13 pan tightly with foil, checking every couple of hours to be sure all of the liquid hasn’t evaporated.

Baked Ham with Honey Dijon Glaze

Baked Ham with Honey Dijon Glaze, just may replace your traditional Holiday Ham

It’s mid-October and already time to begin thinking about our holiday plans. Just yesterday, Dad and I sat in my dining room (he came to hang up a shelf, Thanks Dad!) enjoying his first cup of Chai with me. This spicy, warm and creamy tea seemed to inspire a discussion about the upcoming holidays. As we leisurely visited and sipped our Chai, I found that little voice in my head saying “Sheri, you need to try out some new recipes to treat the family this year”.

After all of these years, Mom has perfected the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. There is comfort and warmth when we enjoy these time-tested traditional family dishes. We work together in the kitchen as if performing a well-rehersed dance. I treasure these days, full of pride as my role in the kitchen has graduated from prepping the vegetables to a true partner, one to be consulted or trusted to actually make the mashed potatoes.

Okay, so back to the ham. My shopping place had a great price on bone-in smoked ham. I got a 6 1/2 lb piece for about $8.00. A steal, as I knew it would produce many meals for my family. I already planned to save the bone for Split Pea Soup and Ham for later. I quickly bought it and it sat in my fridge for 2 days, taunting me! See, I’ve never had to make the Ham, Mom always had that dish mastered, decorated with the pineapple, cherries and cloves and some years a honey-baked one that was presliced. Since this one was pre-cooked and simply only needed to be heated, I shouldn’t have been intimated, but a large piece of meat can do that!

I went to the trusty web for inspiration. What I found was a ton of sweet glazes using orange juice, pineapple juice, lots of brown sugar and often cloves. I do not prefer these super sweet sticky glazes, or sugary crusts. A bit discouraged, I was about to resolve to simply heating the smoked ham as was. Then, it dawned on me! A while ago, I made Honey Dijon Pork Chops that my kids and I raved over! I knew I would utilize many of the flavors I’d used with the pork chops as they were savory and had the perfect amount of sweetness; the ultimate combination. The result was, what is now, our favorite ham recipe. This perfectly juicy baked ham with its beautiful golden crust, is a blue-ribbon winner! Mom, we just may have a new Holiday Ham recipe.

So began the creation of what I consider to be possibly the very best ham I have ever eaten (sorry Mom!).

Recipe:
1 Bone in smoked ham already cooked
1 cup white wine or apple cider
1-2 cups chicken stock
Fresh herbs if available (I used a few sprigs of fresh thyme and sage still on stems)

Glaze ingredients:
1/2 cup Apple cider
1/3 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/3 Cup Honey

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.Unwrap ham, carefully trim off excess fat, taking care not to cut into meat. Make diagonal score marks into the tough outer layer of ham. In a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the ham and cover tightly, place on a rack (I have a rack about 1/2 high) in roasting pan. Pour in broth, wine (or cider) placing herbs around ham in liquid. Cover and bake.

Now it’s time for a bit of math. For every pound of ham, plan to bake 15 minutes. I had just over 6 pounds of ham, so I figured about 1 1/2 hour plus about 5 more.

After the ham was getting cozy in the oven, I leisurely began making the simple glaze. In a small sauce pan, whisk all ingredients together and heat over medium heat. Careful not to let it burn, stir occasionally and allow to gradually thicken. After about 20 minutes or so, it should have the consistency of tomato soup. If not, let cook down longer. Keep on low simmer stirring occasionally when desired results have been obtained.

During the last half hour of cooking time is when you will begin basting your ham with the glaze and a basting brush. Remove from oven, bast liberally, return to over with lid off. Repeat 2 more times every ten minutes.

Remove ham from oven, bast one more time and let sit on cutting board or serving plate for 10 minutes before carving. I’d had high hopes of using the juices in the bottom of the roasting pan for a sauce, but found it too salty from the ham. The wine and herbs perfume the ham perfectly and keep it so juicy it didn’t need a sauce anyways. Don’t forget to save the bone for Split Pea Soup and Ham for another day.

Free Form Artisan Bread

Crusty outside with a soft and chewy center

Having never made fresh bread unless it was from a frozen loaf from the grocery store or a boxed mix in my bread machine, I have to admit, I was intimidated. Motivated by a good friend Nancy who encouraged me to try this recipe as she claimed it was easy enough. The picture of her finished bread looked so amazing that I was determined to give it a whirl.

A quick look at the ingredients left me in disbelief, so few, could this really be as good as it looks? I trust my friend as she definitely knows her way around the kitchen. “B” day arrived, as I now call my baking day. I reread the recipe and even consult my friend via Facebook to clarify the directions and perhaps a bit of encouragement. I suddenly realize I am scared of a little yeast and water. See, I really don’t bake, I cook. Cooking meals and baking are two different worlds as I see it. I happened to be out of my comfort zone here. I love Artisan Bread from my local bakery so much and have paid almost $6.00 for a loaf to go with my homemade soups, so the idea of being able to make my own fresh at home, for a fraction of the cost pushes me forward.

Later in the evening, after following all of the directions, I have 2 loaves of amazing bread to go with the Spilt Pea Soup and Ham I made the day before. I couldn’t believe I did it! the recipe is really simple after doing it once (even for me) The real beauty of this recipe is that it makes about 4 – 1lb loaves and the dough stays good in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It gets better as it hangs out there! Genius! I will never buy from the bakery again as I now have this wonderful recipe and I hope you try it too!

Here is the recipe I received from my friend Nancy who got it from a friend…..A very special Thank You for sharing your recipe and once again, teaching me!

For the dough:

3 cups lukewarm water
1.5 Tablespoons granulated yeast
1.5 Tablespoons kosher or other course salt
6.5 cups white all-purpose flour
cornmeal

Mix water, yeast and salt in a large container no smaller than 5 quarts. It should have a lid but not an airtight lid. I used a large bowl and loosely covered with plastic wrap.

Measure your flour using a spoon to scoop and sweep method so that the flour is not compacted.

Add the flour all at once but do not knead. Just stir so that there aren’t any pockets of flour. The dough will be moist…cover and leave at room temperature or until it has doubled.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

The dough may now be used or left in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The longer it sits in the fridge the more the texture and flavour improves. This quantity of dough makes 4 good size loaves. Or make smaller loaves adjusting cooking time.

Baking Day:

Artisan Bread is crusty and usually free form (no pans). Sprinkle the surface of the dough with a little flour and pull up and with a serrated knife, cut off 1 ball the size of a grapefruit. This should weigh about 1 pound. Lightly dust the ball with flour so it won’t stick to the work surface. Gently stretch the dough out and under so that you have a smooth ball with a collection of “edges” at the bottom. Sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal and place the dough on the peel. I do not have a pizza peel so just used my large cutting board. Allow to rest for 40 minutes at room temperature. After 20 minutes, place a baking stone on rack in oven ( I simply used my baking sheet) and on any rack which will not interfere with the baking process, place an empty broiler pan (I don’t have a broiler pan so used an 8×13 cake pan and placed on the very bottom rack). Preheat the oven to 450F Dust the top of the loaf with flour (or cornmeal if desired) and with a serrated knife slash the top of the loaf. Quickly slide dough onto hot baking stone (or baking sheet). Also quickly pour 1-2cups of water (I definitely used 2 cups) into the heated broiling pan. This produces steam. Quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. Cool on a cooling rack.

This recipe makes a perfectly crusty and chewy bread! Now that I’ve made this recipe, I am going to experiment with flavoring the bread with spinach, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes….you get the picture. I encourage you to try this recipe and would love to hear your feedback! Happy Cookin!

Stuffed Acorn Squash

With their beautiful presentation, these Acorn squash are hearty enough to be a meal or an impressive side dish.

As the weather begins to cool and the leaves start to turn to their golds and reds, I am so happy to change my recipes from salsa’s and summer salads to the flavors of Autumn. Rich and fragrant foods now begin to emerge from my kitchen, my much ignored oven has once again become a comforting source of heat as the chilly breezes begin to wash around us. Oh the smell of Fall in Michigan. Now, the Acorn Squash are ready in Ma’s garden and she was happy to share.

During her visit the other day, my mom confided to me that she just cannot get Dad interested in eating squash. I’ve been thinking about how to make this perfect food, full of nutritional goodness more appealing to the “non-squash lovers”. I knew I wanted to stuff these naturally pretty packages. My first attempt, was okay, but not recipe worthy. After my second attempt, I knew I had a winner!

Apples, dried cranberries, pecans, fresh sage and thyme are the stars of this dish. Sweet and savory, it’s the perfect side dish or quite frankly, a meal in itself! I hope this can change the opinions of non-squash fans, but it will surely make lovers of our fall produce very happy!

Recipe yields 4 small squash

Ingredients:

4 Small Acorn Squash (about 4-inches in diameter) tops cut off and seeds scooped out.
1 Package Stuffing mix any flavor
1/4 lb butter or margarine (1/2 stick)
1 3/4 cup Apple Cider
1/2 Cup roughly chopped Pecans
1 stalk celery sliced thinly
1/2 cup diced onion
3/4 cup peeled and diced apple ( I recommend Granny smith or other tart apple)
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries (golden raisins could be substituted)
1 Heaping TBS fresh chopped Sage
1 Heaping TBS fresh Thyme removed from woody stems
1 Heaping TBS fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp Cinnamon
Salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops of squash off, as if cutting the top of a pumpkin you will be carving, reserve tops. Slice bottom of squash if needed to let it set upright, careful not to cut too deep into cavity, leaving a hole. If this does happen, remove a bit of flesh from the top to fill the bottom. Lightly salt the inside of the squash. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, saute in 2 TBS of butter your onions and celery until just beginning to soften. Melt the remaining butter and add Apple cider until cider is warm and butter is melted. Add dried cranberries, diced apples, cinnamon, and fresh herbs. Mix gently, contents of stuffing mix and pecans. When mixture is completely coated, scoop into squash with a spoon. Mixture can be gently packed in to add more. Stuff squash about 1/2 inch over the top and place the tops of the squash to cover stuffing. There should be a small space between the bottom and top of squash exposing a small amount of the stuffing mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until squash is tender.
Remove from oven, let cool for about 5 minutes and enjoy!

Easy Vegtable Fried Rice

Not too long ago, I found an electric wok, hardly ever used and great quality at my local 2nd hand store. The price was a steal for the brand and condition. I did not want to become like my wok’s previous owner and neglect to appreciate it’s culinary genius. As I already had some beautiful red, green and yellow sweet peppers cut up in the refrigerator and carrot sticks from lasts nights vegetable tray, I was focused on making sure they would be the star in tonight’s dinner as produce like this should not be forgotten and let to turn into a science project. I had planned to use leftover chicken I had also grilled for last nights dinner (made extra, or so I thought), but my boys had already used it to make more Balsamic Chicken Wraps. So vegetarian we go! No disappointment to me, or my boys.

I had to do some research online, as using a wok of any sort is very new to me. I learned quickly that one must have all of their ingredients ready to add as the cooking process happens quickly. I also learned that fried rice is best with leftover rice about 2-3 days old. Shucks…I hadn’t planned for that! Luckily, I found a site that gave a tip if you didn’t have leftover rice and were making it fresh. After rice is cooked, spread on a large cookie sheet and put into freezer for about 30 minutes. It not only cools the rice, but helps it dry out. I have found out that the dryer you rice is the better for this dish. I did, however, find that after 15 minutes, I mixed and re-spread the rice as the corners were freezing and the middle still hadn’t lost its moisture.

So, rice is working, giving me plenty of time to re-consult the internet and to prep my veggies. On 1 plate I have sliced red, yellow and green sweet peppers. This was easy as they were already sliced and cleaned, I just made the slices a bit thinner and shorter for the recipe. I julienned the already made carrot sticks. Then, I happened to have a fresh pint of mushrooms, I removed 2 big ones, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and sliced about 1/4 inch or so. Onion was next, I have fresh red onions from Ma’s Garden that had to be involved (many recipes call for scallions, but I used what I had with no regrets). Peeled, cleaned and halved. The red onion was sliced thinly and also put on the plate of veggies.

Next, I got out a small bowl and added 2 eggs. A dash of pepper and salt was added before I mixed with a fork. This too, was set on the table next to my wok.

I pull out the bottle of soy sauce and get my wooden utensils ( one with a flat edge and one is a spoon, no recipe secret, just what I have that will not scratch the wok)

Oil….Well, I did wonder why in my research Olive Oil was not mentioned…but peanut, sesame, and vegetable oil were always mentioned. OK, I’d rather use my vegetable oil instead of my expensive alternatives. You only use a couple of TBS anyways….

Now, I check my table to be sure all the ingredients are in place. So, now, I begin to cook!

Recipe yields about 4-6 servings or 6 cups total prepared Fried Rice

Ingredients:

1/2cup each of Yellow, Green, and Red sweet pepper sliced about 2″/ 1/4″ (substitute with what is available)
1/3 cup frozen peas (set in a small bowl and let defrost a bit)
1 whole large carrot juilenned into 1 1/2 inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 large white mushrooms sliced (about 1/3 cup)
4 Cups cooked and cooled rice
2 eggs lightly mixed and seasoned with salt and pepper
Soy Sauce (about 2 TBS to taste)
2-3 TBS high temperature oil (vegetable oil works fine)

Heat electric wok to highest setting, add about 1 1/2 TBS oil. When just beginning to smoke slightly, add carrots, stir and cook about 30 seconds. Add peppers, cook about a minute more stirring constantly. Add Mushrooms, cook another minute and remove vegetables to a bowl.

Add more oil if needed, pour in eggs, softly folding. Remove when done but still moist…make sure they are chopped up into small pieces.

Add remaining oil if needed, then the rice and onions. Let sit for 2 minutes or so, breaking up any clumps. Toss and keep frying to get rice a bit crispy. This may take 6-8 minutes with occasional tossing. Add bowl of vegetables and eggs. Add Soy sauce around the pan, about 2 TBS. Toss until all is hot, remove to serving dish and serve immediately. Leftovers are wonderful for lunch the next day.