Greek 3-Layered Dip

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I found this gem of an appetizer at a women’s function at my church recently.  When there is a potluck going on and you see a small huddle of women gushing and pointing at one particular dish, you know it’s gotta be good!  Well, I wasn’t surprised to find that I was right.  It was this savory and rich dip that we all could not get enough of.  Literally, there were only little bits of scrapings left by the time I got over to the dish.  I had to make it for myself to satisfy my taste buds’ craving for the flavor.

In short, it starts with a layer of hummus

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then a layer of tzatziki sauce

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and lastly, this Greek salad to top it off with even more flavor and color.  I made this salad and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes and then strained off the liquid that comes out of the tomato and cucumbers.

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The completed dip is just Greek heaven to my taste buds!  The hummus is creamy rich and the tzatziki sauce with Greek yogurt, cucumbers and dill give a great cooling tang to your tongue. However, it’s the salad on top that makes the whole dip.  It has grape tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives and fresh parsley.  Altogether, it just makes for a fresh and healthy snack.

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I served the dip with store-bought pita chips and also soft pita bread cut into triangles.  I brought this dish to a Christmas party this week and the red and green colors added to the festive colors of the holidays.  It was a hit!

Hummus

Here is my link to my basic hummus recipe:  http://kareninthekitchen.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/hummus-three-ways/

Tzatziki Sauce

From Brown Eyed Baker

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and cut into large chunks
1½ teaspoons kosher salt (for draining cucumber)
1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
1 small clove garlic, grated
4½ teaspoons lemon juice
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh dill

Place the cucumber in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with the kosher salt. Let sit and drain for 30 minutes. Dry thoroughly with paper towels, then chop very finely. Combine the finely chopped cucumber with the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and dill.

Tomato Cucumber Salad

10.5 oz pkg grape tomatoes, cut into quarters

1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded, chopped

1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Toss all ingredients into a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Pour the salad into a colander and drain out the liquid and serve.

 

2-in-1 Lasagna and Eggplant Parmigiana

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This meal was partly born out of the beautiful eggplant that I bought from a local vegetable farm. Knowing that my children would never go near the eggplant, I had the idea to make a portion of the dish into a traditional lasagna.  It was a perfect pairing because I used the exact same filling ingredients for both sides of this combo dish.

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I just love the color of eggplant, don’t you?  Did you know the color and vegetable is technically called aubergine?  I just love saying that word.  Try it with me…….”oh-ber-zheen.”

eggplantlasagna02Get it all sliced up into about 1/4 inch slices.

eggplantlasagna03I then put it through a 3-step breading process.  Flour first, then egg wash and lastly, Italian breadcrumbs.

eggplantlasagna04Here is my favorite kitchen helper.  My daughter has to stand on a stool to make it all work.  Love it!

eggplantlasagna07My favorite part of the eggplant parmigiana is that I bake it, not fry it with oil.  I feel like I taste the flavor of the eggplant more and without all the fat and calories of the oil.

eggplantlasagna08Make a slit down each Italian sausage and remove it from the casing.

eggplantlasagna09I then crumble it into a pan and brown it until cooked through.

eggplantlasagna10I used a whole bag of fresh spinach.  It looks like a lot, but it will wilt and shrink before your eyes.

eggplantlasagna11Here it is cooking in hot water……

eggplantlasagna12Here is the spinach after cooking.  It’s amazing how it cooks down like that.

eggplantlasagna13While you let your spinach cool enough to touch, boil up your lasagna noodles.

eggplantlasagna14This is really the amount of spinach that came out of that whole colander.  I don’t why, but it surprises me every time!!  Still!

eggplantlasagna15Give it a good chop.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of using fresh spinach, feel free to use a package of frozen spinach.  It works just as well.

eggplantlasagna16Add it to the ricotta, egg, and spices.

eggplantlasagna18Get it all mixed thoroughly.

eggplantlasagna17Here’s the lovely browned eggplant, out of the oven.

eggplantlasagna19Put down a layer of your favorite pasta sauce.

eggplantlasagna20Here’s my assembly line, all set up and ready to put together.

eggplantlasagna21I used the largest glass pan I own.  You can tell about 1/3 was eggplant and 2/3 was pasta.

eggplantlasagna22It’s easiest to spread the ricotta mixture first, then the sausage, then mozzarella and sauce on last.

eggplantlasagna23Continue with the layers until you’re all done.  The top layer has more sauce and cheese.

eggplantlasagna24Bake it until your kitchen smells like your Italian grandmother’s house.  If you don’t have an Italian grandmother, just pretend.  That’s what I did!

eggplantlasagna25Here’s a side shot of the eggplant……I mean aubergine parmigiana!! Delectable, I promise.

Warning: If you eat this right away, make sure you blow on it for a bit or you’re likely to burn the roof of your mouth.  I speak from personal experience.  But, it was kinda worth it!

2-in-1 Lasagna and Eggplant Parmigiana

1 medium size eggplant, ¼ inch slices

12 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente

3 cups Italian bread crumbs

4 eggs

2 tablespoons water

2 cups flour

5 links sweet Italian sausage, crumbled and cooked

1 bunch spinach, blanched chopped

16 oz ricotta cheese

½ cup parmesan cheese

Pinch nutmeg

2 cups mozzarella cheese

1 jar pasta sauce

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

After your eggplant is sliced, cover each piece first in flour, then 2 eggs that have been scrambled with water and lastly the bread crumbs.  Lay each slice of eggplant on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Set aside.

For your lasagna filling, combine the ricotta cheese, the other 2 eggs, spinach, parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To assemble this dish, use an 11×14 inch pan or your largest baking dish.  Start by pouring enough pasta sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.  Lay noodles down on one side and the baked eggplant on the other.  Spread on a layer of ricotta mixture, then sausage and mozzarella cheese.  Lightly spoon on and spread enough pasta sauce to cover each layer.  Continue each layer until you run out of ingredients.  For me this was 4 layers of pasta/eggplant and 3 layers of cheese/sausage.

The top layer is pasta and mozzarella cheese only.  Bake this at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

Homemade Lemonade Concentrate = Perfect Lemonade

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If you have a mature lemon tree in your yard like my parents do, then I bet you’ve got lemons coming out of your ears.  My parents were nice enough to share their abundance of lemons with me.

As the cliche goes, the best thing to do when you have lemons really is to make lemonade!  And this is the recipe you want to use.

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Start with a quart mason jar and add in the zest of one lemon.

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Juice the lemons until you get one and a half cups of pure lemon goodness.

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One tip for your electric juicer is to place a grippy sheet thingy under it so it doesn’t run around all over your kitchen counter tops.  No one wants a crazy juicer running around, ya know!

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Next, add the juice to the zest in the jar.

Marvel at how the cute little bits of zest swim around in that lovely juice.

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Add your sugar to a small pot.

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Then add the water and place it on medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved.  Good job, you’ve just make simple syrup!

 

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Add the simple syrup to the jar and allow it to steep until all the flavors combine and cool down.  It’s ready to use once it’s cooled.

To make lemonade from this concentrate, combine 1 cup of concentrate to 3 cups of cold water into a pitcher.  Then, pour over a glass of ice and enjoy the fruits of your labor………literally!!

Also, because this concentrate looks so lovely and fits so nicely into a mason jar, it’s also makes a great gift!

 

Homemade Lemonade Concentrate

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ cups water

Zest from one lemon

1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice

 

Measure the sugar and water into a sauce pan. While stirring with a wooden spoon, bring the mixture to a boil until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Let cool slightly.

Add fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest to the sugar syrup.  Allow it to cool. Pour the lemonade syrup into a quart jar. Cover tightly with the lid. The syrup can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 weeks.

Turkey Lettuce Cups

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These lettuce cups are an explosion of flavor and texture.  You get an amazing crunch from the lettuce and water chestnuts and then the sweet and spicy from the sauces.  It’s also a beautiful looking dish, with splashes of color from the green onions and red peppers.

 

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Start by browning the ground turkey with some garlic.

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Have all your other filling ingredients chopped and ready to go.  Here I have cremini mushrooms, red bell pepper, green onion and water chestnuts.  Chop them all finely and set aside.

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Add everything in except the green onions and saute until softened.

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Shaohsing cooking wine is a staple in a Chinese pantry.  But if you’re not Chinese, or just don’t have any, you can substitute with sherry wine.

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Hoisin sauce is another common flavoring item in Chinese cooking.  It is sort of like a sweet bbq sauce, but deeper in flavor.  This is very common in grocery stores now, so I’m sure you can find it in the Asian aisle at the store.

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If you don’t know what Sriracha sauce is, it’s a very tasty and spicy chili sauce.  This can also be found easily at your local grocery store, probably close to the hoisin.

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After adding in all the sauces, throw in the green onions.  I put the onions in last because I don’t want them to wilt down and lose its color or texture.  Add in the Chinese five spice, salt and white pepper to taste.

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Here is the beautifully cooked turkey filling, ready to plopped on top of a leaf of iceberg lettuce.

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Iceberg lettuce is really the best type to use for this dish.  It is firm and holds its shape well.  It also has the best crunch and is conveniently shaped like a bowl.  This is an ideal dish for  a low carb diet, but tasty enough that you won’t miss the carb at all!!

 

Turkey Lettuce Cups

Yield:  10 servings

1 ½ pounds ground turkey

2 cups fresh cremini mushrooms, diced

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 small tin (6 to 8 oz) sliced water chestnuts, diced

3 green onions, diced

3 tablespoons Shaosing Chinese cooking wine

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon Sriracha chile sauce

Kosher salt and white pepper

½ teaspoon Chinese five spice

1/2 large head iceberg lettuce, core removed, head quartered

 

Remove tough stems from mushrooms and brush with damp towel to clean, dice mushrooms.

Preheat a large skillet or wok to high.

Add oil to hot pan.  Add ground turkey to the pan and saute the meat by stir frying a minute or 2. Add garlic and cook another minute or two. Add in the Chinese five spice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook a minute more. Add bell pepper and chopped water chestnuts. Cook another minute, continuing to stir fry mixture. Add cooking wine, hoisin, sriracha and toss to coat the mixture evenly.  Add the green onions at the end to retain color and freshness.

Transfer the hot turkey mixture to serving platter and pile the quartered wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce along side. To eat, pile spoonfuls into a lettuce cup, wrapping lettuce around the filling and enjoy!

Baked Chicken Chimichanga

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The chimichanga by definition is a deep-fried burrito.  Since I’ve been trying to feed my family healthier foods, I’ve never dared tried making a chimichange myself.  But, when I came across this recipe for a baked chimi, I had to try it!  I completely did not miss the deep frying part.

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Start with mixing together cream cheese and taco seasoning.

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Stir in the Mexican four cheese blend.

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Here is my secret weapon for the quick weeknight meal………..store-bought rotissiere chicken!  Finally, the secret’s out!

Thank you to the genius who knows that moms can use some help every now and again and invented the precooked rotissiere chicken.

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Shred up the two breasts.

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Spread a generous layer of the cheese blend onto a flour tortilla.

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Layer on some chicken.

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Tuck and fold tightly so nothing leaks out.

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What a cute little bundle of joy…………I mean, deliciousness!

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Lay the eight chimis seam side down on a baking dish.

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Then spray them with some vegetable oil spray.  I love my Misto, I can put any kind of oil in there and just pump and spray away!  It’s a very handy kitchen gadget and one of my favorites.

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I love that the chimichanga does get a nice brown crunchy texture on the outside.  Then when you bite into it, you get the creamy chicken with all that savory taco seasoning, delectable I tell ya’!!

I topped my chimi with sour cream, homemade salsa, shredded cheese and some green onions.  Here’s the recipe for the amazing restaurant style homemade salsa.

I know it’s good when my hubby keeps saying how good it is after each bite.  He did that about 4 times tonight.  This recipe is a keeper!

Baked Chicken Chimichanga

From Menu Managed

8 oz. package cream cheese
1 cup Mexican Blend cheese, shredded
1 taco seasoning packet
1 lb. store-bought  rotissiere chicken, shredded
8 flour tortillas
cooking spray
shredded cheese
green onions, for garnish
sour cream
salsa

Stir together cream cheese, Mexican blend cheese and taco seasoning.  Spread cheese mixture on a flour tortilla, then lay some shredded chicken on top.

Tuck in sides, and roll up each tortilla.  Lay seam side down on a baking pan lined with foil.
Spray tops of tortillas with cooking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Turn chimichangas over, and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Serve with cheddar cheese, green onions, sour cream, and salsa.

Beet Greens with Bacon

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My last post showed how I roasted beets, now this post deals with the other half; the beet greens.  These greens are  probably the most beautiful greens because of the red veins running through each leaf.  Aren’t they pretty?

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If you have any reservations about eating beet greens, let me just say that bacon is involved!  Does that make it better?  Oh, and garlic takes it over the top.

Notice that I cut my bacon across the slices, right out of the package.  It’s a quick and easy way to cut bacon into even pieces.  Each cut comes out to about one slice of bacon.

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Start by sauteing the bacon until some fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy.  Then add in the chopped garlic.  After I took this picture, I added garlic chile sauce, cider vinegar, water and sugar.

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Add in the cleaned and chopped beet greens.  Saute with a spatula until the greens are wilted and tender.  Add salt to taste.

Sorry this shot is a little blurry.  I was so overcome with excitement over the smell that I couldn’t hold the camera still!

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The beet greens tasted more amazing than I expected.  The slight bitterness paired with the smokey bacon and robust garlic is a perfect mouthful!  This would make a great side dish to any beef or chicken entree.

Sauted Beet Greens with Bacon

1 pound beet greens

3 strips bacon, chopped (or a tablespoon of bacon fat)

1 large garlic clove, minced

3/4 cup of water

1 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 teaspoon garlic chile sauce

1/6 cup of cider vinegar

salt

Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water. Drain greens and wash a second time. Drain greens and cut away any heavy stems. Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

In a large skillet or 3-qt saucepan, cook bacon until lightly browned on medium heat (or heat 1 Tbsp of bacon fat). Stir in garlic. Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar and garlic chile sauce. Bring mixture to a boil.

Add the beet greens and gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for      5-10 minutes until the greens are tender. Stir in vinegar. Add salt to taste

Roasted Beets

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I’m going to be honest, I’ve never eaten a beet that didn’t come out of a can.  Isn’t that terrible?  I had no idea what I was missing.  Beets are amazing!

I’ve never cooked beets before, but when I went to a local vegetable farm in my neighborhood and saw these beautiful babies and I just had to have them.

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Here’s what the true color of the beet looks like after you peel off the outer skin.  Isn’t that beautiful?

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And, they’re even more beautiful on the inside.  Those rings give the beets such a unique look.  After cutting these up, I’m glad that I wore an apron!  I can see why beets were used to dye fabric.

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After seeing the red mess, I decided the cleanest way to toss these in oil, salt and pepper was in a plastic big.

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After they’re well coated, toss them on a sheet pan and bake them until tender.

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I don’t know what happens to vegetables when they are roasted in the oven, but something amazing takes place in there.  These beets come out moist, tender and packed full of  concentrated sweet beet flavor.

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So, the next time you come across some beets that call out to you, please pick them up and treat yourself to fresh roasted beets that will change the way you think about this simple vegetable.

Roasted Beets

6 large beets

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Peel and cut beets into one-inch pieces.  Place cut beets into a plastic bag and add the oil, salt and pepper.  Toss in the bag until beets are well-coated.  Spread out onto a sheet pan and bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

Meatball Marinara Sub

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My family likes to go to a popular sub sandwich shop for lunch on the weekends.  For as long as we have been going to this home of the $5 foot long, my daughter only orders the meatball sub.  With all the different options of sandwich fillings, I cannot get her to try anything else but that.  So, that’s what gave me the idea to make them myself.  My daughter did say that mine tastes better……….smart girl!


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Start with the combo of beef and pork.

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This is the best way I’ve found to make uniform meatballs.  My secret weapon is the ice cream scoop.  I use it for ice cream, cookie batter and of course meatballs.


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Roll each meatball  into little balls.

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Baking makes for a little healthier meatballs and it’s a lot faster than cooking on the stove top.  Really, it’s because I’m just too lazy to stand at the stove and turn each of these little meatballs.

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When they come out of the oven, place them into a pan with marinara sauce.  Of course you can use these with spaghetti, but my daughter insisted on meatball subs this night.

Meatball Marinara Sub

Meatballs

1 ½ pounds ground beef (80/20)

1 ½ pounds ground pork

2 eggs, beaten

¼ cup milk

½ cup breadcrumbs

1 tsp garlic salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp dried basil

¼ tsp paprika

Sandwich

1 jar marinara sauce

Bread rolls

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix until well incorporated.  Scoop with ice cream scoop onto baking pan.  Roll between your hands to make them into a ball.  Drizzle some olive oil over each meatball.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.

Place the meatballs into a pan and pour in your favorite jar pasta sauce until sauce is warmed through and the meatballs soak in the sauce.  Slice and toast the rolls in the oven until a little crisp.  Fill each roll with meatballs and sauce on top, then sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese.

Makes 35 large meatballs.

Eggs in a Mug

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I am so excited to share this new breakfast idea I recently discovered.  It has revolutionized my morning routine of feeding my kids a good hot breakfast before school.  Did you know you can make scrambled eggs in a mug?  In a microwave?  In  two and a half minutes?  I LOVE IT!

No more having to crack eggs in a separate bowl, then scramble them in a pan with oil and a spatula, then serve them on a separate plate!  The mug is the bowl, pan and plate all in one!!  Have I used enough exclamation points to let you know that I’m super excited about his one?!!!!!!  I think so.

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Start by scrambling two eggs in a coffee mug, with some milk, salt and pepper.

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Add in some shredded cheese.  Any kind you like.

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Tear up some bread into small pieces.  I used 1/4 of a bagel here.

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Then tear up some deli meat.  Yes, I used my bare hands.  I don’t have time for a cutting board and knife!  Stir everything up and pop it in the microwave.

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Look at that lovely goodness peeking out to say, “Hello, I’m ready to be your healthy and hot breakfast!”

Remember, you can change out the kinds of cheese, meat or bread you want.  Heck, you can even add in some veggies like spinach and tomatoes if you like.  Just think of what you like in your omelette and you can use it.

This is so easy, my kids can do it themselves.  That would really free up your morning routine!

 

Eggs in a Mug

2 eggs

4 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons shredded cheese

Salt

Pepper

1 slice ham

½ slice of bread

 

Break the eggs into a mug and scramble with a fork.  Add in the milk, cheese, salt and pepper and beat it to incorporate.  Rip pieces of the ham and bread into the mug and combine with the fork.  Microwave on high for about 2 ½ to 3 minutes.

Panko Crusted Tilapia

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If you are running low on time to make dinner, make fish!  My easy way of crusting tilapia is super fast and simple.  The fish cooks in about 15 minutes and is fancy enough to serve company too.  I served it here with sauteed green beans and orzo with parmesan cheese and olive oil.

The tilapia is flaky and light and it’s paired perfectly with  crunchy Japanese bread crumbs, called panko.

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Tilapia is one of my favorite fish to serve my family.  Mostly because it is so easy to cook and is mild-tasting.  Tilapia will pretty much taste like whatever you flavor it with.  Where I live, it’s difficult to get fish fresh, so I buy my fish frozen.  I buy it individually vacuum-sealed and they defrost easily and are ready to cook.

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Instead of doing to classic 3-step dredge of flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs, I go straight to the breadcrumbs.   First, I pour about 2 cups of panko into a bowl and shake some lemon pepper seasoning and garlic salt into it.  I then melt some butter and brush it on each of the fillets.

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Then, I sprinkle the panko onto the fish and press down gently with the palm of my hand to make sure the breadcrumbs stick to the fish.   The butter gives the fish richness and the panko does not overwhelm the delicate flesh of the fish.  Perfect for a weeknight meal or a weekend dinner with company.

Panko Crusted Tilapia

4 tilapia fillets

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp lemon pepper

1 tsp garlic salt

2 Tb butter, melted

Lay fish on shallow baking sheet pan and pat dry with a paper towel.  Brush the melted butter evenly on the fillets.  Add the panko, lemon pepper and garlic salt in a bowl and toss to combine.  Spread the panko evenly on all four pieces of tilapia and press down gently with the palm of your hand, making sure the breadcrumbs stick on well.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.