katiejeancooks

Real Food For Families

Herb-Almond Topping for Salmon or Chicken

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Someone in our house got braces put on her teeth last week, so I should be doing a post about soup or smoothies today. It seems like that is all we have been eating around here lately. I was also feeling nostalgic for those toddler years as I lovingly cut up her tortellini into minuscule pieces…but that only lasted about 5 minutes…then I began to have flashbacks to a time when leaving the house meant packing a bag like I was going on a 3 week vacation and life was a never ending cycle of getting small, squirmy people cleaned and dressed and fed and changed. Ahhh…these days…how I love the 9 and 10 year old skill set…independently don boots and jackets. Not only feed themselves…but can even feed the dog! Not quite able to keep their bedrooms picked up, but at least I can shut their doors and contain the chaos. But, I digress…

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This recipe is one that I tore out of a Country Home magazine back in 2008…I’ve made it so many times, I don’t really even follow the recipe any more. We love it on salmon, but you could also use it with chicken or pork.

HERB ALMOND CRUST
~3 tablespoons chopped almonds
~2 tablespoons melted butter
~2 tablespoons bread crumbs
~1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
~handful of snipped fresh basil and/or Italian parsley (or a smaller amount of dried herbs)
~1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
~1 clove garlic, minced
~1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients and spoon on top of your fish or meat. Bake as directed. We usually bake salmon at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes and boneless, skinless chicken breasts at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.

Now I’m off to make more soup!

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Asparagus Breakfast Bake

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Despite what I have been witnessing outside my window lately, the season of daffodils and tree buds and rain boots is supposedly upon us. So that means it’s time to start making things like Roasted Carrots & Peas, Pasta Primavera and of course…asparagus. This recipe comes from the Simple Bites website and even though it’s “breakfast”, we like to make it for dinner. Aimee has an asparagus recipe round up on that post so head over there if you need more asparagus inspiration!

ASPARAGUS BREAKFAST BAKE (Adapted from Simple Bites)
~bacon, one package
~one bunch of asparagus, washed and trimmed
~sprigs of thyme
~lemon zest
~salt and pepper
~eggs (10)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the bacon in a single layer in a 13×9 inch baking pan and bake for about 10 minutes. I used 2 baking pans in order to fit all of the bacon. Remove the bacon and place it on some paper towels to drain. Pour off almost all of the bacon grease, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan. Put the asparagus in the pan and stir it to coat with the bacon grease. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle with the lemon zest, thyme leaves and black pepper. Roast the asparagus for about 8 minutes. Then crack the eggs one at a time, in a single layer over the asparagus, sprinkle with a bit of salt and return to the oven for 5 to 6 minutes, until the eggs have set. Remove from the oven and serve immediately along with the bacon.

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Simple Raspberry Vinaigrette Recipe

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When we started paying attention to ingredient labels, we were astounded by the long lists of ingredients in some of our favorite salad dressings. And then, even though they seem to last forever, I would always have a few sad bottles of dressing, long past their expiration dates, lurking around in the side door of my fridge, taking up valuable real estate. I mostly just make my own now. My husband, who eats a salad almost every day, mixes up a simple balsamic vinaigrette and keeps it in a jar on the counter. Those of you who know my husband, no doubt, now feel confident that you too can make your own salad dressing! The general rule to follow is to use a 2:1 oil to vinegar ratio. Then adjust up or down, depending on your preference. If you like a more tangy dressing, use more vinegar. I almost always add a bit of salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Since I am usually making just enough for what I need, I don’t worry about refrigerating leftover dressing and just give it a good shake before using it. This is how I make Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing. This also makes a great marinade for chicken.

Raspberry Vinaigrette
~1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
~1/4 cup white vinegar (I usually use white balsamic)
~2 or 3 Tablespoons raspberry jam
~ Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together in a jar. This makes about one cup of dressing.

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The Homemade Pantry…Cookbook Review

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If there were such a thing as a support group for people who buy too many cookbooks, I would be at every meeting. I am especially vulnerable to the ones that read like a journal. The ones that you can sit down and start on page one and keep going all the way to the index, because you are fascinated by how she and her husband divvy up the kitchen responsibilities (Jenny Rosenstrach’s Dinner, A Love Story) or by how he became impassioned to help people learn how to cook for themselves (Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution). My most recent purchase, The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila, is that type of cookbook. Her sweet stories about her family and her easy going, relaxed style make you think that…yes…maybe I could make my own butter. Beautiful color photos accompany stories and easy to follow recipes for 101 everyday staples that most of us usually buy prepackaged. Everything from chicken stock and spice mixes to pudding and peanut butter cups. She covers children’s menu staples like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese and also delves into making your own dairy products like ricotta cheese and butter. She provides a section on canning that actually doesn’t sound scary! I mixed up a batch of her pancake and waffle mix and keep a bag of it in the freezer to help streamline the Saturday morning “Mom…will you make us pancakes?” routine. Alana also has a cooking blog, Eating From the Ground Up, which you should definitely head right over to and pick out something to make for dinner tonight!

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Salmon Quesadillas

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I can’t believe that I have not done a post on quesadillas until now. There are so many, many reasons why I love them. It started back when I played in a golf league, years ago when I was single. We used to go out to eat afterwards and I think that every single time, I ordered some form of quesadillas. In fact, during my 20′s and 30′s, I may have ordered quesadillas 98% of the time when eating out. They never, ever disappointed me. Oddly enough, though, I never tried to make them at home. After I got married, I came to realize that my husband liked salmon. He liked salmon a lot…almost as much as I liked quesadillas. So one day, while searching for new salmon recipes, I stumbled upon Salmon Quesadillas. “This is awesome!” I said to myself…well, not really, this was before people said “Awesome!” so much. I probably said something like, “Holy smokes, Batman! This is the perfect meal!” So I went and bought canned wild salmon and basil and mozzarella cheese and tortilla wraps…and made my very first quesadillas at home. And holy smokes, Batman, they were awesome!!

SALMON QUESADILLAS
~4 soft tortilla wraps (100% whole wheat if possible)
~melted butter or olive oil
~1 can of wild pink salmon
~2 cloves of garlic, minced
~2 teaspoons of dried basil
~ground black pepper
~shredded mozzarella cheese, about 2 cups

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Drain the salmon and pick it apart to remove all of the bones (this is the most difficult part of this recipe…I hate doing this, tedious and kind of ick!)
3. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil or butter in a skillet and sautée the garlic for a minute or so.
4. Add the salmon, basil and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool while you prepare the tortillas.
5. Lightly brush one side of each tortilla wrap with melted butter or olive oil.
6. Place the wraps, buttered side down, on a large rimmed baking sheet.
7. On one half of each wrap, layer shredded mozzarella cheese, then 1/4 of the salmon mixture, then more shredded cheese. Fold the other half of the wrap over and press them down slightly to flatten.
8. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 4 to 5 minutes, flip them over and continue to bake, 4 to 5 minutes on the second side.
9. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then cut them in half with a pizza cutter or scissors.

Now, of course, my kids won’t touch these, so I make them a plain cheese version. And that is one of the great things about quesadillas…you can put whatever you want in them and it’s fairly easy to make a few different kinds at the same time to accommodate everyone’s tastes. Some combinations we have tried…sliced apples and cheddar cheese, diced cooked chicken and feta cheese, diced pepperoni and mozzarella cheese…the possibilities are endless.

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Chickpea Salad

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I found a version of this Ina Garten recipe while perusing the recipe archives of A Life From Scratch and thought it was a nice way to pretend that we live in a much warmer climate. It has been a looooonnnnng winter where we live and it is showing no signs of ending anytime soon. So dice up some cucumbers, slice some tomatoes, squeeze some lemons and think spring. It’s got to arrive eventually!

Chickpea Salad
For the salad:
~2, 15 oz. cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
~cherry tomatoes, about 20, sliced in half
~one cucumber, diced (I remove the seeds also…slice in half lengthwise and scrape a spoon down the middle to remove them)
~6 scallions, thinly sliced
~handful each of chopped, fresh basil, mint and parsley (our grocery store sells small recipe ready quantities of fresh herbs that work well for this)
~6 oz. crumbled feta cheese

For the dressing:
~juice and zest of 2 lemons
~2 cloves garlic, minced
~1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
~1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
~1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine all of the salad ingredients.
2. Whisk together the lemon juice/zest, garlic, salt and pepper.
3. Slowly whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice mixture.
4. Drizzle as much of the dressing over the salad as you prefer.
5. Check your calendar again…yes…it’s still February 😕.

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Game Day

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While the rest of the country is gearing up for tomorrow’s “Big Game Day”, here in Syracuse, our big game is today! Syracuse University’s Men’s Basketball team is undefeated and going up against the legendary Duke Blue Devils for the first time since moving from the Big East to the ACC. For those of you who don’t follow college basketball…I know this means nothing …but here in the ‘Cuse, where everyone bleeds orange…this game is going to be a lot of fun to watch!

So we’re serving up home made chicken wings, meatball sliders, macaroni & cheese, salad (I had to sneak something good for us in there!) and orange cheese doodles!! Yes, I am giving in for one day and letting the kids eat cheese doodles and Doritos. But that is the beauty of trying to eat well most of the time. When these special occasions come along, you don’t sweat the bag of artificial colors and flavors you’re letting your kids consume.

I do want to share the recipe for the chicken wings and sauce. I completely stole this from Catherine Newman’s blog, Ben & Birdy, so I will send you right over there. What I love about it…the hot sauce she recommends for making the classic Buffalo wing sauce…has 5 ingredients, all real food! Win! Enjoy the game!

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Balsamic Reduction Sauce

I have no photo of my beautiful and delicious Balsamic Reduction Sauce, for reasons I will explain later. So instead, I offer you, leftover cute Christmas photos. Santa visited my parents home on Christmas Eve and had a nice visit with Katie, Christopher and all of their cousins. Thank you to Aunt Tricia for making sure that he included us in his long list of stops that evening!

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So, back to the Balsamic Reduction Sauce….I made this to serve over lamb chops, arugula and spinach greens and it was very good and very beautiful on the plate. But, as anyone who takes photos of food realizes, it is best to take these shots in natural light. A photo of my dinner plate at 6:30 PM, in the Northeast is…just…well…sad. Combine that with the fact that I really don’t have any photography skills to speak of and I take the majority of the pictures for this blog with my iPad…high quality, gorgeous photography is just not happening around these parts! I know that’s not why you’re here. You come, obviously, for the award winning writing…oh, that’s not why you are here? You are here because you are my mother and you want to see photos of your grand kids? Okay, fine…here you go, Mom. But on the off chance that someone out there may, inadvertently stumble across this food blog on their way to the Pioneer Woman (an actual award winning food blog) and wonder why the photos are a disaster from October through April…that is why.

Balsamic Reduction Sauce (4 servings)
~1 Tablespoon olive oil
~2 shallots, minced
~1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
~3/4 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
~1 Tablespoon butter

Note: Ideally, prepare this sauce in the pan that you cooked your meat in. This is what helps to flavor the sauce. Remove the meat to a covered plate to keep warm. You may not need to add the oil if there is still enough in the pan to cook the shallots.

1. Cook the shallots for a few minutes over medium heat in a bit of oil until just browned.
2. Stir in the vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to get any bits of meat into the sauce.
3. Stir in the broth and continue to cook and stir over medium to medium high heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce reduces by about a half and thickens up a bit.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it completely melts.
5. Pour the sauce over the cooked meat.

This sauce was great with the lamb chops, but would also be a nice addition to steak,chicken or pork. Here is the original recipe from Allrecipes.

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School Lunch Ideas and a Blogiversary!

I’ve been taking pictures of some of the lunches my kids have brought to school over the past few months and thought I would share them. I love seeing other people’s ideas. Sometimes you feel like you pack the same thing over and over and it’s helpful to get inspiration from others! So here you go…

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Grapes, whole wheat pretzel sticks, tomato/pesto/cheese roll ups, slices of cheddar cheese

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Slices of mozzarella cheese, organic pepperoni, blueberries, PB&J sandwich

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Cheese and Tomato sandwich, raspberries/blueberries, nuts/chocolate chips, organic pepperoni

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Organic Salami/mustard/cheese sandwich, grapes/cantelope, sunflower seeds/chocolate chips

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Tomato/pesto sandwich, olives, mixed nuts, grapes

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PB&J sandwich, whole wheat pretzel sticks and dried raspberries, cut up carrots/red pepper

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Whole wheat bagel, carrots/sugar snap peas, grapes, grapes, hummus

By the way, our blog, KatieJeanCooks, turned one year old yesterday. I believe that’s known as a Blogiversary! It has been a fun year documenting our journey to eating better and we hope you have been able to find something useful in our posts. Thanks for reading!

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What is Polenta?

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Every member of my family asked this question when they saw “Polenta Chicken Lasagna” written on the weekly menu plan, so maybe you are wondering about this ingredient as well. I keep hearing about it, but had never tried it until this past week. Polenta is made from cornmeal. It is an inexpensive, gluten-free grain that can be substituted for bread or pasta. It’s mostly complex carbohydrates, which are high in dietary fiber and digest more slowly than simple carbohydrates. This makes polenta a good source of energy for the body. Fresh made polenta has the consistency of grits, but it can be made into cakes for grilling or frying. You can also purchase it in precooked logs, wrapped in plastic, that don’t need to be refrigerated until opened. You typically slice the logs into 1/4 inch thick rounds to be used in most recipes. Have you ever tried polenta? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

POLENTA CHICKEN LASAGNA
~1 tube of precooked polenta (16 oz.)
~pesto (about 2 ounces or 1/4 cup)
~cooked chicken, diced or shredded, about 1 cup
~Tomato sauce (homemade or your favorite jarred sauce), about 1 1/2 cups
~mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced thinly, about 8 oz.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Slice the polenta into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Arrange half of them in a single layer in the bottom of a buttered 8 inch square baking dish.
3. Spread half of the pesto over the polenta.
4. Arrange half of the chicken over the pesto layer.
5. Spread half of the tomato sauce over the chicken.
6. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese evenly over the sauce layer.
7. Repeat the layers, except leave off the final layer of cheese.
8. Cover with foil and bake at 375 (F) for 25 minutes.
9. Remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on and return to the oven, uncovered for about 5 more minutes.

I made this in an 8×8 inch dish because I wasn’t sure if we would like it, but the next time I plan on doubling the recipe and using a 13×9 inch dish. There is also a lot of flexibility when it comes to how much time you want to invest in this recipe. You could make everything from scratch (crazy talk!!) or you could use pesto and sauce from a jar and pick up a rotisserie chicken. It’s also a perfect meal for using up leftover chicken, which is what I did this week.

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