Friday, July 31, 2009

If you like Piña Coladas...

Ok, "If you like Piña Coladas And getting caught in the rain. If you're not into yoga. If you have half a brain..." But seriously folks, this pie is a piña colada dessert that's super easy to make and super tasty. This one comes again from that great new Jell-O cookbook we got called: Jell-O Brand Fun and Fabulous Recipes. Here's the link, once again, on

Today's recipe is a great combination of pineapple, coconut, lime, and twist of rum. All the things you'd find in a great piña colada drink, sans the glass :)

The Recipe:

Piña Colada Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

  • 1 pkg (4-serving size) JELL-O Lemon or Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding and Pie Filling
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tbsp rum
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp grated lime rind
  • 1 can (8 1/4 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup Baker's Angel Flake Coconut, plain or toasted
  • 1 baked 9-inch pie shell or prepared graham cracker crumb crust, cooled

Combine pie filling mix, sour cream, rum, sugar, milk and rind in a medium bowl. With electric mixer at low speed, beat until blended and smooth, about 1 minute. Fold in pineapple and coconut. Spoon into pie shell. Chill about 3 hrs. Garnish with whipped topping, fruit and mint leaves, if desired.

*Substitution: Use 1/2 tsp rum extract, increasing milk to 1/4 cup.

My Results:

Again, because I'm trying to keep alcohol out of our cooking right now, I used imitation rum extract as instructed in the asterisked directions. Here's a pic of the ingredients:

I also chose to use sugar-free jello pudding and a graham cracker crumb crust in this pie, both of which were good choices for us, but you can opt for different ones if you like. Following the directions was quite easy except for draining the crushed pineapple. I only "partially" drained it, so my pie was probably a bit looser than intended, but it worked for me. Here's a picture of the pie just before refrigerating it:

I topped it with fresh made whipped cream (about 1 cup of heavy cream whipped up with about 2 tbsp confectioner's sugar until stiff) and then refrigerated it for about 5 hours (which was how long it took for hubby to get home from work and us to have dinner). Here's a picture of the slice of pie ready for hubby's taste test:

Gosh this stuff was good! Hubby liked it so much he declared he would have to finish the rest of the pie for breakfast since we were heading out of town in the morning and he didn't want it to be wasted (he didn't though!) and I loved it as well. I think that I would like it more with the actual rum in it, because the alcohol would give a bit of bite to the pie I believe, but we'll try that some other time. For now, we're very happy with the results and hope that brother-in-law, who's house-sitting this weekend, enjoys finishing it off for us :) Be sure to try this one and let me know what you think and check back tomorrow for a great gift idea as well as recipes since I can finally show you the gift recipes I made up for my sister's bridal shower gift (since the shower's tomorrow)...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tangy Thai Chicken on the grill

Tonight was supposed to be a grilling night, but the rain came down, so we used the indoor grill pan instead. This recipe is from Good Times, Good Grilling: Surefire Recipes for Great Grill Parties by Cheryl and Bill Jamison and is fairly simple but very tasty . Here's a link to the book on Amazon should you want to check it out for yourself:

The Recipe:

Tangy Thai Chicken

Simple to make, with easily found ingredients, but exotic and complex in taste - that's the beauty of these breasts. Serve them with white rice or on mixed greens with a peanut oil vinaigrette.

Serves 4.

  • 1 tbsp store-bought red or green Thai curry paste, or more to taste
  • 2 tsp peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
  • Salt or Asian fish sauce (also called nam pla or nuoc mam) optional
  • 4 medium to large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded 1/2 inch thick
  • Store-bought sweet Thai red chile sauce
  • Chopped peanuts or chopped fresh mint, basil, or cilantro, or a combination
Make the marinade, first combining the curry paste and oil in a bowl and stirring until the paste is softened. Mix in three quarters of the coconut milk and taste the mixture. If it tastes bland now, it will taste even blander on the chicken, so add more curry paste, and salt if needed, until the mixture is pleasantly pungent. If the mixture becomes too spicy, add a little more coconut milk. Place the chicken in a zippered plastic bag, pour the marinade over it, and seal the bag. Toss back and forth to coat the chicken evenly. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes while you prepare the grill. For a more intense flavor, marinate for up to several hours, refrigerated.

Fire up the grill, bringing the heat to medium (4 to 5 seconds with the hand test).

Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade. Grill the chicken for 10 to 12 minutes total. Turn onto each side twice, rotating the breasts a half-turn each time for crisscross grill marks.

After each side of the chicken has faced the fire once, brush them with a few tablespoons of the chile sauce. The chicken is ready when it is white throughout but still juicy and the surface is a bit chewy and caramelized in spots.

The breasts can be served whole or thickly sliced and mounded on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts or herbs or both, and accompany with additional sweet chile sauce.

Adding a Personal Signature:
Turn from Thailand to India for inspiration. Replace the coconut milk with about 1 cup of plain yogurt and replace the curry paste with good fresh curry powder or garam masala. Skip the chile sauce glaze, but do sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Use the chicken as a filling for summer rolls. Dampen Asian rice paper wrappers briefly in warm water and pat off excess water. Then roll up chicken shreds and all the garnishes into 1-inch-diameter cylinders with the ends tucked in (like a burrito). For dunking, serve with the sweet Thai chile sauce or mix some of the sauce into about an equal amount of white vinegar.

My results:

So, here first are my ingredients as used in this test:

The only thing not shown in this picture is the sweet chile sauce. I used Aroma Chef's Thai sweet chile sauce which we picked up at the local grocery store. The coconut milk and fish sauce both came from our local Asian market, but I know a lot of regular grocery stores are carrying both these days. I began with the red curry paste and oil as instructed and then added the coconut milk. It tasted pretty bland so I added more curry paste (about 1 more tsp) and about 1 tbsp of fish sauce. Then it tasted a bit hot, so I added the rest of the coconut milk. It tasted about right at that point when I spied half a lime I had left over from another use and decided to add the lime juice in, so added the juice of half a lime :) That was perfect. Tossed the chicken into a baggy and then tossed the sauce in with it and tossed it around to coat. Because hubby was going to be later than expected, I threw this in the fridge for about a hour and a half while I waited for his arrival. Here's a pic of the marinated chicken, just before I heated up the grill pan:

Next, I heated our grill pan on medium high heat for 5 minutes to throughly heat the surface and placed the breasts on the pan. Set the timer for 5 minutes, turned and rotated them and set the timer for another 5 minutes. After this turn/rotate, I glazed one side of the breasts with the chile sauce and let cook for 2 minutes, then the other side and again, 2 minutes. They came out perfectly cooked and beautiful! And boy were they ever yummy! Here's a photo of the finished breasts before we devoured them:

We served these with white jasmine rice and sautéed zucchini (which I just happened to have on hand) and they were wonderful! I could definitely see these in a summer roll or even on a Thai-style salad, somewhat like yum nuah. Very good and definitely a recipe we'll do again. Perhaps I'll let the chicken marinade a little longer next time, but other than that, this was a winner! Check back tomorrow for more recipe fun!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Two-Fer Wednesday

Because today's recipe is a super simple one, I've decided to share TWO with you for the price of one! So today you'll be getting a super recipe for a low-carb dish called Slice of Mushroom Heaven from Dana Carpender's 500 Low-Carb Recipes AND the recipe for a great mustard-based barbecue sauce we had on pulled pork last night from the Cook's Illustrated cookbook I mentioned in my previous post, Grilleration! titled The Best Recipe: Grilling & Barbecue. Here is a link to both books on

So here are the two recipes for today's post. The first one, Slice of Mushroom Heaven is always a hit with those on low-carb diets, those who love mushrooms, heck, just about everyone. Dana mentions that she prefers it cold and while I too like it cold, it's just a good hot :) The second recipe, Mid-South Carolina Mustard Sauce is just what it sounds like...a mustard and vinegar based barbecue sauce like you'd encounter in Carolina style BBQ. We served it last night over crockpot pulled pork, which I'll explain in my notes since it's not really a recipe, just something I do :)

The Recipes:

Slice of Mushroom Heaven

Rich enough to give Dean Ornish fits, and oh-so-good. Thanks to my friend Kay for the name!

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt or Vege-Sal
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (a little more than 1/2 lb)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat, and begin frying the mushrooms, onion and garlic. When the mushrooms are limp, turn the heat up a bit and boil off the liquid. Stir in the white wine, and cook until that's boiled away, too.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the half-and-half, eggs, salt, pepper and 2 cups of the cheese.
  4. Spray an 8x8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and spread the mixture from step 3 evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top, and bake for 50 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden.
Yield: 9 generous servings, each with 5 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of fiber, for a total of 4 grams of usable carbs and 13 grams of protein.

Mid-South Carolina Mustard Sauce

Makes 2 1/2 cups

Another classic sauce for pulled pork that works well with most any cut of grilled pork.

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 5 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients, including pepper to taste, in a medium bowl. (The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days.)

My results:

For the first recipe, Slice of Mushroom Heaven, this was a repeat performer in our house. I first tried this recipe several years ago when hubby and I, along with most of the family, were on the Atkins diet. It was a hit then and every bit as popular today. It is sort of a cross between a quiche and a mushroom casserole, and oh-so-good. Here were my ingredients:

The one change I made this time was to substitute water and dehydrated sherry wine powder in place of the white wine as we are trying to keep alcohol out of our cooking right now. But the sherry powder was a good substitute and worked well. And here's a shot of the mushrooms simmering away:

And just before entering the oven, after topping with the reserved cheese:

As I mentioned, this dish is good cold or hot, but cuts better when it's cold, so you might consider making it ahead, cooling it, slicing it and then reheating it slightly for serving if you wish if you want nice slices. Otherwise, letting it cool in the pan just a bit does help it to solidify a bit for slicing at the table. Here's the final picture of this dish before we devoured it!

This was OH SO YUMMY! Will definitely do this one again and again...

The second recipe was actually the one planned for today's blog, but as I said, it was so easy I decided to share two instead of one. That, however, should not dissuade you from trying this recipe, because it was every bit as good as the first recipe, but for a totally different dish.

First, let me explain about the Crockpot pulled pork. I started doing pulled pork this way some years back because: a) it's easier and b) it takes less hand-on time and c) we love the results! Basically, you take a boneless boston butt (sometimes called pork shoulder) or pork that is used for carnitas (which is not a solid mass but just as yummy), dump it in a large Crockpot with some salt, pepper and about 1/2 cup of water and then turn it on low to cook for 18-24 hours. Yes, that's right, 18-24 hours. So I usually put it on before bed the night before I plan to serve it and it's ready the next night for supper. Now, normally, about 1 hr before I serve this I remove the lid from the Crockpot, shred up the meat and add 1 bottle of our favorite BBQ sauce (usually KC Masterpiece). It will look like a lot of liquid is in the pot, but then I put the lid back on the pot and let it cook for at least one more hour and by that time all the liquid has been absorbed by the shredded pork. You can then serve this as is on buns, as a baked potato topping, as a pizza topping, whatever your heart desires. It is delicious!

However, because we were testing out this mustard-based sauce recipe, this time, about 1 hr before I served the pork, I shredded it up, added about 1 cup more water mixed with 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce and 1 tbsp liquid Hickory smoke and then recovered it and let it cook. This added the "BBQ" flavor that would have been missing from the sauce and made a very good but "unsauced" meat. So that's where the meat came from. But onto the sauce...

Here are my ingredients:

This is, of course, a VERY easy recipe to do. Just blend everything together and put it in the fridge. I emptied one squeeze bottle of Dijon so I decided to use it for the container to hold the finished product. It's "shake-able" and makes a good squeeze bottle for it. I also suggest making it in advance so the flavors have a chance to meld. Here's the finished product:

Now, straight up, this sauce is very vinegar-y, but mixed with the pulled pork it mellowed considerably and actually took a good bit to fully taste it. It is a thin sauce, unlike traditional thick red BBQ sauces, so be careful when pouring or you'll overdo it. We all really liked this sauce on the meat and would definitely make it again.

Let me know if you decide to give either of these recipes a try and be sure to check back tomorrow for more recipe fun!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Feed the Freezer

Today's recipe is one that you can make up in large batches and then freeze for later. It is a great basic meatball recipe that can then be used in lots of different preparations for meals. The nice things about making your own freezer meatballs are that:

1) You know EXACTLY what is in them (so no MSG, strange preservatives, etc.)
2) You save quite a bit of money by making them yourself.
3) It really doesn't take much more time to make a BIG batch than it does to make a small one.
4) You always have SOMETHING on hand to make for dinner.
5) You always have something on hand should extra folks show up for dinner.
6) They're delicious!

So, this recipe comes from an old version of the cookbook Make-A-Mix Cookery by Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, and Madeline Westover. It has been revised since this version and the meatball mix recipe in the newer cookbook isn't quite the same as this one, but looks to be a good one as well. I may have to give it a try in the future, after I purchase the revised edition of the book! Anyway, here's a link to the revised edition on Amazon if you're interested. You can also find copies of the older version (copyright 1983) if you search on Ebay and on Amazon.

Either version is a great addition to your library and full of great recipes for everything from a basic bisquick like mix to drink mixes to hot roll mix, etc. I love this book :) The recipe I'm using today is called Meatball Mix and is a great basic meatball that can be very versatile. We used one "portion" of it in Swedish meatballs for dinner and froze the rest for later use. I've used these meatballs in everything from basic spaghetti & meatballs to meatball sandwiches, to meatball soup (albondigas soup) to sweet & sour meatballs. They are very basic and not overly seasoned, so they transition well among many recipes. If you only plan to use them for italian dishes, you could choose to season them up with some italian seasoning or use italian breadcrumbs, but I prefer to leave them plain and then let the sauce or rest of the dish flavor them. I've also used part ground beef and part ground pork in the past with success, so there is a lot of room to play with this one.

The Recipe:

Meatball Mix Meatballs are always ready - for appetizers, casseroles and main dishes.
  • 4 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Blend well. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Place meatballs on ungreased baking sheets and bake 10 to 15 minutes, until browned. Remove immediately and drain on paper towels. When cooled, put about 30 meatballs each into 5 1-quart freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch space at top. Seal and label containers. Freeze. Use within 3 months. Makes about 144 meatballs.

My results:

First off, I altered the recipe only slightly since I had a 5 lb chub of beef to use, so I increased the recipe by 1/4 (so, 5 eggs rather than 4, etc.). The second alteration is in the size of the meatballs. I made 2" meatballs instead of 1", so my yield was about half as many, but I also only packaged them in bags of a dozen which will feed 4 adults easily, so I got 5 bags of 2" meatballs, 4 of which are now safely in my freezer. Here is a shot of my ingredients:

I started by whisking the eggs together with the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. I also combined the breadcrumbs and cornstarch. I then blended the meat and onions together, in a large bowl, and poured in the egg mixture and then the crumbs. I used latex gloves to mix this all together. I buy the gloves from Sams/Costco and love having them handy (haha!) for messy jobs like this. After mixing, this is what my large meatball looked like:

This is where it is very useful to have a "disher" or cookie scoop on hand... It makes super fast work of making meatballs and makes them all pretty uniform in size. Using the scoop, I made up two trays of meatballs for the oven. Here they are before baking:

You can see that I didn't chop my onion up super fine. If you don't like bits of onion in your meatballs, be sure to chop finer or even grate the onion, but I like mine a little more rustic... I baked these larger meatballs for a total of 18 minutes, rotating the trays once during baking. Here they are all finished:

Use caution when removing them from the oven because depending on the fattiness of your meat, there may be a bit of grease in the pan which you don't want to spill on yourself! Trust me on this one! I divided the meatballs up into separate bags and froze 4 bags worth. I have a wonderful Foodsaver gadget that I use for freezing things which prevents freezer burn and makes them last longer. I absolutely love mine! They're a little pricey initially, but when I think about all the food I've saved from freezer burn since I've had it... well, it's more than paid for itself. Here's a link to it on Amazon:

Anyway, I froze 4 bags worth of the meatballs and we ate one "portion" of them for dinner last night with "swedish meatball sauce" on them. My "swedish meatball sauce" is basically one packet of brown gravy mix, prepared as directed to which I add a small dash of nutmeg and about 1/2 cup of sour cream to which I've added about 1 tsp dried dill. I simmer the meatballs in this sauce while I prepare the rest of dinner and then serve. They're always a big hit and super easy to make. So that's it for this posting. I hope you'll give the recipe a shot and make sure to keep your freezer fed! Let me know if you try it and what you think of the results!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ginger lime jello mold

Well, I always seem to be a day behind and a dollar short, so it should come as no surprise that this is just getting posted this evening, even though it was made on Saturday and finished/eaten on Sunday :) I did learn a valuable lesson on this one which I'll share with you below, but the dish was a hit with the family, even though it was a close call to getting it done at all! This recipe is another one from the Jell-o Brand Fun and Fabulous Cookbook which I also did the microwave fudge from. Here's the link to it on Amazon again for anyone who missed it last time:

This time the recipe is for Ginger Pineapple Mold and is on page 61. Here it is:

The Recipe:

Ginger Pineapple Mold

  • 1 can (20 oz) pineapple slices in juice
  • 2 pkg (4-serving size) or 1 pkg (8-serving size) JELL-O Brand Lime or Apricot Flavor Gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup ginger ale or cold water
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Cut 4 pineapple slices in half; set aside. Cut remaining pineapple slices into chunks. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add reserved juice, ginger ale, and ginger. Chill until slightly thickened. Measure 1 cup of the gelatin. Arrange some of the pineapple chunks in a 6-cup ring mold; top with measured gelatin. Chill until set but not firm, about 10 minutes. Fold remaining pineapple chunks into remaining gelatin; spoon over gelatin in mold. Chill until firm, about 4 hours. Unmold. Garnish with halved pineapple slices, halved cherry tomatoes and crisp greens if desired.

My results:

Let me start by saying that it isn't ENTIRELY my fault that my first attempt at this recipe was a flop... the recipe doesn't specify what KIND of ginger to use, so, loving ginger and preferring fresh, I chose to use fresh when I first attempted this recipe. Here were my ingredients:

See my ginger root on top of the pineapple can :) Anyway, come to find out that just like fresh pineapple, there is an enzyme in ginger root that prevents gelatin from ever setting... Of course I didn't find this out until I had spent most of the day waiting for the gelatin to be "slightly thickened" and then going ahead with the recipe figuring it was just being slow. So at almost midnight, having let the thing sit in the refrigerator more than 8 hours at that point, I recognized defeat. Only problem was I didn't know why it hadn't set.

So after doing some research and discovering the little tidbit above about ginger root, I scrounged in the pantry for ingredients to try it again. Well, I didn't have any more pineapple slices, just crushed. And I didn't have two boxes of lime gelatin, but did have 1 and 1 of lemon. And I also decided to throw in some mandarin oranges for good measure. I repeated the recipe, this time with dried ground ginger, and what-da-ya-know... it worked! I let it sit to "firm" overnight and then hubby did the honors of turning it out onto a tray the next morning. He first soaked it in some warm water to loosen it from the ring (which, by the way, was actually a decorative bundt pan, not a "real" gelatin mold).

It turned out wonderfully and I added a little "sauce" of 1 part cool whip, thawed, 1 part mayonnaise, the zest of 1 lime and the juice of half a lime plus about 1 tbsp grenadine syrup and 1 packet of splenda sweetener (the lime was pretty tart!). Mixed that all up and spooned it into the center of my gelatin mold and then topped with a wedge of the lime. Let me know what you think!

I think it turned out pretty and everyone seemed to really like it, my husband especially. We took it to a family dinner and hubby said he was glad it didn't get all eaten up so he had some leftovers. Hubby is definitely a jello-phile, so if he liked it, I musta dun good :) Anyway, I hope you'll give this a shot, remembering my new rule of only using POWDERED ginger in gelatin dishes... Let me know if you try it and what you think. I think this would be good with orange jello or the apricot as it suggests, but would also be good with an addition of sliced water chestnuts, maybe peaches, etc. The ginger goes good with a lot of fruits, so let your imagination take you there! Enjoy and be sure to check back for my next recipe adventure!