Sunday, March 27

Never Bored with Salmon

Sunday has definitely become our fish night. I really like experimenting with all the different recipes I’ve found. This one in particular caught my eye as I found it in a healthier cookbook with an appetizing picture and it sounded spicy instead of the sweet fish dishes I’ve made. On the same page in the book there was a suggested recipe to pair with it. I’m not very fond of vegetables, I’d much prefer fruit, however mint sugar snap peas? That definitely peaked my interest so I decided to make them as well.

The original recipe calls for 4 (6 oz.) salmon filets. I think fish tastes better fresh which is why I altered the recipe to serve 2 people so that we wouldn’t have left overs. I can’t accurately tell you the size/ounces of filets I cooked as I am very bad at estimating this unless it’s specifically called out on the package. I did however purchase about a pound of fish and divyed it up into smaller filets (cooking 2, freezing the rest). Without being able to tell you the exact size of the filets, my advice would be to cut the filets into what you feel is a good size portion for 1 person (think what you would receive at a restaurant). You’ll see the recipe calls for chili sauce with garlic. I had chili sauce in the fridge but it didn’t include garlic so I combined it with approximately ¼ teaspoon of minced garlic. This worked perfectly. 

What I found astounding about this recipe is that it’s amazingly FAST to make. This would be a great week night dinner as there’s minimal prep work and the fish is done in less than 10 minutes! With all that extra time, I highly suggest making a side dish. If you’re looking for something new, try the mint sugar snap peas. They go well with the dish and they’re also quite easy to make. While cooking these I learned a new rule in the kitchen which I should have known but I’m not afraid to admit that I didn’t. After rinsing vegetables make sure they are fully dry before adding them to a skillet with oil. I thought I would slowly pour the peas from the strainer directly into the oiled skillet. Of course as soon as I began to add them hot sparks of oil started to shoot up. My husband happened to be talking with me in the kitchen when this happened and as the sparks started to fly he told me Stop! And something along the lines of. ..Babe you can’t mix water with oil. He suggested drying them off completely before returning them to the pan. Ta da! That worked! Lesson learned.

When dinner was served I have to say we were both pleasantly surprised by the fish. There are so many salmon dishes I’ve come to love that it’s hard to imagine finding another exceptional dish. Well this is definitely one of them. I really thought the fish would be spicy because of the recipes name, however don’t be deceived by that, this dish had more of a sweet taste. I think the glaze was sweeter because the orange marmalade tones down the chili sauce creating a really nice flavor. As for the minted sugar snap peas I really enjoyed these a lot. The peas were a beautiful green color that had a nice crunch when you bit into them. I was expecting the mint flavor to really stand out however I tasted more of the orange zest. Ryan didn’t particularly care for the orange flavor as he felt it overpowered the peas and that’s all he tasted. We’re opposites when it comes to how we’d prefer to eat vegetables. Ryan savors the true green, earthiness taste of vegetables. He even likes to eat them raw with no ranch dressing (what?!). I, on the other hand, don’t care for that hearty taste. I like to slightly disguise it by cooking vegetables with other flavors so that I’ll be able to enjoy eating them. At least this gets me to eat more vegetables. Going back to Ryan’s point though, I agree the orange flavor was strong, however I still really enjoyed the peas. When I make the peas again (which I’m definitely planning to) I am will try adding half the amount of orange zest and that should balance the flavors more equally.

Chili Garlic Glazed Salmon
Adapted from Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast: Over 280 Incredibly Flavorful 5-Ingredient 15-Minute Recipesby Editors of Cooking Light Magazine (Amazon affiliate link)
Serves 2
Prep Time: 4 mins
Total Time: 11 mins.

  • 3 tablespoons chili sauce with garlic*
        *Or ¼ tsp minced garlic can be added to regular chili sauce
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1 ½ tablespoons orange marmalade
  • ¾ teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 salmon filets (medium /large size for 1 person)

  1. Preheat broiler to 400˚F
  2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl to create chili mixture. Line baking sheet with foil and lightly grease with butter where the filets will rest.
  3. Place filets on baking sheet and spoon half of the chili mixture on top (brushing across sides as well).
  4. Broil fish for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove from oven and spoon remaining chili mixture on top of filets.
  5. Broil fish for 2 more minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Minted Sugar Snap Peas
Adapted from Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast: Over 280 Incredibly Flavorful 5-Ingredient 15-Minute Recipesby Editors of Cooking Light Magazine (Amazon affiliate link)
Serves 2
Prep Time: 2 mins.
Total Time: 5 mins.


  • 1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil
  • 2 cups Fresh Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  1. Rinse peas and pat dry.
  2. Heat oil in a large non stick skillet over medium–high heat.
  3. Add peas and sauté for 2 minutes or until peas are crisp-tender.
  4. Add mint, orange zest, and salt. Stir to combine well and serve.

Saturday, March 19

A Classic Dish

One of my favorite magazines is Real Simple.  It features crafts, cooking, decorating, and well pretty much everything that you wish you would have thought of.  I came across this recipe a few years ago after I had just moved out of my parent’s house into my own apartment.  I was drawn to this recipe because of its simplicity (I mentioned I was living on my own right?) and the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a bad pasta dish.

It’s hard to believe something simple, with so few ingredients, could be so rewarding.  But trust me, it is. This dish is what I would consider a ‘classic’ recipe.  When I hear classic, I automatically think of beauty, elegance, and grace much like Princess Diana.  Or I think about the old, boxy Mercedes and Volvo cars I see driving on the road today.  Even though they’re 15+ years old they don’t look one bit out of place.   Classic pieces are timeless and this is one of those dishes.

The steps to this recipe are very easy to follow, however here’s some things I’ve learned along the way:

1.   I didn’t know what bocconcini was however I’m glad I do now as you will literally find yourself eating the bocconcini straight off the cutting board.  Bocconcini is simply fresh mozzarella.  It’s typically shaped in small or medium sized balls and packed in water.  You can find this cheese not near the pre-sliced deli cheeses of your super market but near the finer cheese section.  Make sure to look at how many ounces are in the package before buying it.  I haven’t found one that’s a perfect 12 ounces, so I will typically buy two containers (totaling 16 oz.) and reserve the extra cheese for a quick snack after work.  Make sure to cut the cheese into bite size pieces as the cheese will melt when you add it to the hot pasta.  You’ll notice in the directions that the cheese and remaining ingredients are added at the end and cook for only 1 minute before the meal is done.  This seems like a short amount of time but after making this recipe a few times I understand why.  If you cook these ingredients longer than 1 minute the cheese begins to melt and combine with the other cheese pieces, producing good size globs of cheese.  Don’t worry I’ve had this happen a few times.  The dish is not ruined.  If anything you may want to use a knife to cut through it for serving.

2.   The original recipe calls for red bell peppers, however depending what time of year it is, red peppers can be expensive.  I’ve tried this recipe with red, yellow, and green peppers.  Because it tastes good with any color I buy the cheapest peppers. 

3.   Don’t forget to reserve the pasta water!!!!!!!!  The instructions call this out, however it’s very easy to forget when you’re busy in the kitchen.  The pasta water really helps enhance the flavors of this dish.  Trust me as I’ve had to add regular water after accidently dumping the water down the drain and it’s NOT the same.  Put a ladle or deep spoon next to the pasta as it’s boiling to help serve as a reminder.  I find it’s easiest to scoop the hot water out vs. pouring it into a measuring cup.
4.   I’ve made this recipe with arugula and without.  That was the first time my husband and I tried arugula and we didn’t really care for it.  Now the recipe is even more simple for me as I don’t add the arugula.  Even so, the dish still has such a great taste!  My advice….if you’ve had arugula before and liked it, definitely include it.  But if you didn’t like it or you’re not sure, just omit it from the beginning.  If you’re feeling adventurous you can always incorporate it next time.  

I haven’t made this recipe in awhile because I in all honesty I lost the magazine it was featured in.  When I started this blog I knew it would be a meal I’d want to share and that’s when I had the idea to search Real Simple’s website.  They had it!  Now I can easily access it anytime I want to make it.  When I made this dish after not making it for so long, my husband said how much he liked it and how we should make it more often.

Pasta with Peppers and Mozzarella
Adapted from Pasta with Peppers and Mozzarella, by Sara Quessenberry and Kate Merker
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 20 mins

  • 12 ounces short pasta (penne or gemelli)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  •  2 bell peppers (you pick the color!), thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 bunches arugula, thick stems removed (about 6 cups)
  • 12 ounces bocconcini (small balls of fresh mozzarella packed in water). Cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  •  ¼ teaspoon pepper

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot according to the package directions.  RESERVE ½ cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.  Set aside reserved water and drained pasta.  Carefully wipe out the pot (use oven mitts as it will still be hot).
  2. Heat the oil in the pasta pot over medium heat. Add the bell peppers and garlic.  Stir occasionally and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until the peppers are tender. 
  3. Add the arugula, bocconcini, cooked pasta, reserved pasta water, and salt & pepper.
  4. Mix well and cook until the arugula is just wilted, about 1 minute.

Sunday, March 13

Not Your Traditional Pizza

While browsing through the library cookbooks, I found one featuring meals that are 500 calories or less. I’m not very health conscious when deciding what to make for dinner however I thought this book could teach me how to make a few healthier meals. Sharing a meal with my husband that’s only 500 calories sounds very healthy to me! There were many recipes to choose from but in the end I chose Black Bean and Corn Pizza. I know… not your typical pizza but the pictures looked very appetizing. I’ve made Mexican pizzas before with refried beans, so why not give this one a try?  Also, one of my all time favorite pizzas is bbq chicken pizza (topped with cilantro) and this recipe includes barbeque sauce. Yum!

One of the ingredients for this recipe is whole wheat pizza dough. I made the pizza dough a week in advance and froze it so that I could have it ready when I made this meal. This is definitely a time saver if you don’t feel like making everything all in one setting. You can reference my previous post, Homemade Pizza & Pizza Dough, for instructions on how to make the dough.

Overall this recipe is super easy once you have the dough ready to go. It’s just a matter of mixing and adding the toppings to the pizza. If you’ve never made homemade pizza before, you’ll see this makes a large size pizza. I used a 14.5 x 10 in. rectangular pan to bake the pizza.  When choosing your pan keep in mind the dough will fit up to this size pan with some work. By work, I mean that you’ll need to stretch and mold the dough to fit the size/shape of your pan (circulare pans will work too). At first you may think there’s no way it’ll fill the pan, but it can be done. Just be patient and keep stretching the dough. What I do is place the dough into the pan and press down with the palm of my hand, slowly inching the dough further and further to fit the pan.

Don't give up, keep stretching, it'll fill the whole pan.

This pizza cooked to perfection and looked just like the appetizing pictures in the cookbook. I liked the pizza and thought it was a good option to have as an alternative to our regular pizza/pizza toppings. It was filling as well.  This was my first time making wheat dough and it came out really nice.  My husband gave me kudos for how good the pizza looked when it came out of the oven and was excited to try it. However as we were eating, he said “It’s good but it’s not pizza.” We both laughed. So, my advice is this, if you’re craving a traditional pizza, use the whole wheat dough and stick with your favorite toppings. If you do this, you can’t go wrong. If you’re open to a healthier, non-traditional pizza then you should try this pizza.

Black Bean & Corn Pizza
Adapted from EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners Cookbookby Jessie Price and Nicci Micco (Amazon affiliate link)
Serving size: 1 large pizza
Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 15 minutes

  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen kernels that have been de-thawed)
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 pound prepared whole wheat pizza dough (see previous post)
  • 1/2 cup barbeque sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
Note: The original recipe calls for less cheese and bbq sauce.  This would add more calories if you're counting your calories.

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Combine beans and corn in medium bowl. Lightly sprinkle cornmeal onto pizza stone or baking sheet. Stretch and mold dough to fit large baking stone/sheet (approximately 14.5 x 10 in. rectangular pan or circular pan can be used as well). Dough will be thinner, if it breaks, mold back together.
  3. When dough covers baking stone/sheet, bake in oven for 3-4 minutes until top of dough has slightly hardened and there’s a hint of golden color. Pre-cooking the dough prevents the pizza from getting soggy when cooked with toppings.
  4. Remove pre-cooked dough from oven and spread barbeque sauce on top with a spoon.
  5. Distribute bean mixture evenly on top of the dough. Sprinkle diced tomatoes on top. Top with cheese.
  6. Return to oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cheese has a slight golden color.

Sunday, March 6

Homemade Pizza & Pizza Dough

I love making homemade pizza. At one time I used to buy the powdered dough mix from the store. It was quite simple to make by just adding hot water and some oil. Those mixes served us well for quite a while until we bought a Dutch oven for baking bread. In the past I had never used yeast, but now that I was experimenting with baking bread, why not pizza dough? So I began.

The first time I made pizza dough I found a recipe online and it turned out good except it was super thick. We typically make our pizzas with a thinner crust. The dough would have worked perfectly if I had divided it into 2 pizzas instead of 1. Lesson learned. Now I study the reviews closely to see if people say it tends to be thick or thin. My 2nd attempt at pizza dough came out great. Both my husband and I really liked it and it was the perfect thickness for us, but now began my search for a wheat pizza dough recipe as it’s needed in one of my upcoming recipes next week.

I found this recipe online and chose to make it based on the great reviews it received. Some said this was the best pizza dough they’ve had. In my books that means it’s a must try. Glancing at the ingredients I saw honey was included. You know how I feel about honey. That could only mean it’s gotta be good.

If you haven’t worked with yeast before, don’t let it frighten you. I used to read recipes and be scared away by the term ‘proofing’ yeast. Proofing sounds scientific and a little too complex for my tastes. Before using the yeast you’d need to make sure it was frothy or bubbly. How would I recognize this? But then I read a short snippet from a book one day that made everything seem much easier than the cookbooks declared. The reason why recipes call for proofing is to make sure the yeast is alive or active, because what could be worse than making a fresh batch of dough only to find it doesn’t rise after all that hard work? What the book authors reminded bakers is that when you buy yeast at the store (whether in packets or a jar), there’s always an expiration date that’s clearly marked. So if the yeast you have is not expired, you really don’t need to proof it as 99.9% of the time it’s alive. That put my mind at ease. So if you’d like to proof the yeast for peace of mind then go ahead, but if you don’t chances are your bread or dough will rise. There’s one thing that I think you’ll enjoy about proofing, when the yeast is combined with the water it smells really delicious. Maybe it smells so good because you know you’ll have pizza or bread shortly.

Proofed Yeast

Also, if you have a KitchenAid mixer, you really should try making bread or dough with it as it handles some tough mixing and kneading with ease. I used mine to make this dough. Remember, when making, you’ll need to use the mixing attachment that looks like a hook. Another reason why I like using the mixer is that the mixing bowl doubles as a nice large bowl that the dough can rise in.

There’s one thing I’d suggest in making this recipe and that’s to double it. You can one make pizza now and freeze the remaining dough for later. To freeze the dough form into a ball and place inside of a regular zip lock bag. Just remember to remove it from the freezer the night before you’ll need to use it (allowing enough time to de-thaw). I made this recipe over the weekend (doubled and froze) so that we could try a new pizza recipe later in the week. If you decide to freeze multiple batches for use at a later time just make sure each has their own bag.

I have not tried this recipe yet as I’m going to use it in a new recipe, Black Bean & Corn Pizza, that I’ll be trying next week and posting about. I’ll be sure to share if we liked it at that time. I think it’s going to be great though as my husband who was in the basement came upstairs and asked what smelled so good. At that point I had only made the dough and he thought he smelled pizza. So I think that’s a good sign!

Voila!  Ready to be made into pizza:

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Serves: Dough for 1 large pizza
Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 45 mins

  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package fast rising yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (not hot, luke warm, as hot water can kill the yeast)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme

  1. Combine the yeast and the water, stir until dissolved. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to a bowl. Note: If doubling the recipe make sure this is a large bowl.
  3. Add the yeast mixture into the bowl with the remaining ingredients. Using dough hook, mix until well combined.
  4. Remove dough from mixer, sprinkle countertop with small amount of flour (will reduce sticking), knead on countertop until it forms a nice ball.
  5. Let rest in large bowl for at least a 1/2 hour. Note: If freezing, the dough can now be packaged to freeze.
  6. When ready to make the pizza, fit dough into the shape of a large pan (rectangular or circular). I use a 14.5 x 10 in. rectangular pan.
  7. Bake pizza at 450°F for 12 minutes or until cheese starts to turn a slight golden brown color.

Salmon with Honey Mustard Glaze & Honey Roasted Vegetables

After we had the last salmon recipe my husband and I decided to try and make fish at least once a week.  I decided this week I’d seek out a new recipe instead of making our favorite recipe.  I chose this one by the great reviews it received and the ingredients it called for.  This incorporates honey, which I love, and also calls for mustard.  Mentally tasting honey mustard made me think this is a combination you can’t go wrong with.  The original recipe calls for grilling the fillets but with it being Winter I baked them instead. 

In addition to making the salmon, with it being the weekend and having that much more time than a week night, I decided to go all out and make a side dish as well.  That’s of course in addition to my existing side dish staple, Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice (Long Grain & Wild).  For the dish I made from scratch I chose roasted vegetables with 2 vegetables that I’ve never even tried.  The photo in the cookbook looked good so I decided to give it a try.  Not being familiar with the ingredients I searched for pictures online before hitting the grocery store so I would know what to look for.

I successfully purchased the vegetables at the store but that didn’t mean I knew how to prep them or the basics of how to cook them.  After looking up information on the web I learned that parsnips are related to the carrot and have a sweet, nutty flavor.  Hmm interesting.  The original recipe calls for any type of winter squash.  I chose Butternut Squash purely based on namesake alone.  In getting the vegetables ready I searched YouTube for a video of how they should be cut and peeled.  If you haven’t cooked with these vegetables before here are two videos that demonstrate cutting and peeling techniques: parsnips, butternut squash.

As you can see, with the parsnips you want to slice off the very top and end tip.  Then peel with a potato peeler just like you would a carrot.  Cut lengthwise and core like you would an apple (the recipe calls for coring, however the core is edible, so it's up to you if you would like to core).  Done.  That was easy.  Note:  when I cut off the top and smelled it, I was not a fan.  My mind was pretty well made up that I would not like this dish.

With the squash there are multiple ways to cut it.  All the videos I watched showed the squash being very tough and awkward to cut (definitely needing some muscle).  I was nervous.  The video above demonstrates one way of cutting that makes it easier as sometimes the squash can be very large, making it that much harder to cut.  Instead of cutting the whole squash in half lengthwise, you cut it in half (right where the bulbous part meets the long narrow stem).  After, cut each of the halves in half (lengthwise).  Now you’ll need to remove/scoop out the seeds from the bulbous part.  Then it’s just a matter of using the potato peeler for peeling and a knife to cut into chunks.   I have to say when I opened the squash it had the most beautiful vibrant orange color.  It made me think for a split second that it was Fall outside and not Winter.

After the vegetables were cut the rest of the recipe was really quite simple.  There’s one thing that I’ll keep in mind for next time.  When the recipe says to boil the vegetables for 2 minutes it doesn’t mean put in boiling water, wait for the water to re-boil and then boil for 2 minutes.  When I dumped the vegetables into the boiling water I assumed the water needed to reach boiling again.  Wrong, they just need to cook for 2 minutes and then be strained.  Since I ‘over boiled’, I guess you could say, the vegetables came out a little mushy vs. being a bit crispy after they were roasted.  No biggie, they were still really good, but next time I will try the other method. 

What’s great about these 2 dishes is that you can bake them at the same time since they cook at the same temperature.  I started with cooking the vegetables first.  When I pulled them out to add the honey mustard mixture (30 minutes in) I put them back in the oven along with the salmon.

Like I said, I didn’t have high hopes for the vegetables after I smelled the sliced parsnip, however they came out great!   The glaze that was on the vegetables tasted good but was not strong enough to overpower the vegetables.  The parsnip had a sweet, nutty flavor just like I read about and I actually really liked them.  The squash had sort of a sweet taste as well.  This is silly but if you want an impressive dish that has great color, you should bake them for that reason alone.  The vegetables went perfectly along with the salmon.  The salmon recipe, I have to say is equally as good as our Tried & True, Honey Browned Salmon (recipe featured previously).  I didn’t think it would come that close in comparison but WOW the glaze for this fish was amazing.  I felt like I was eating a restaurant dish right at home.  My hubby was very impressed with it as well (even saying that I feed him like a king! LOL).  We both muttered Mmmm a few times and vowed again to definitely make fish once a week.  I highly encourage you to try this recipe if you’re looking for a good fish recipe

Salmon with Honey Mustard Glaze
Adapted from Recipe #67742 by Ratherbeswimmin,
Serves 2
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 20 mins

  • 1 lb of salmon fillet; divided into 2 fillets

Honey Mustard Glaze:
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar  (light brown sugar could be used as well)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

1.  Heat oven to 400°F
2.  In a bowl combine all the honey mustard glaze ingredients; stir to combine well.
3.  Lightly grease a shallow, oven proof, glass dish with PAM or butter. 
4.  Place salmon fillets in the dish and pour the honey mustard mixture on top; cover and refrigerate (30 minutes or up to 1 hour).
5.  Bake uncovered for 10 minutes; remove from oven and use a spoon to redistribute some of the fallen glaze back on top of the fillets.  Bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until the salmon is done and flakes easily with a fork.

Honey Roasted Vegetables
Adapted from The Vegetarian Cookbookby Reader's Digest (Amazon affiliate link)
Serves 4
Prep Time:  20mins
Total Time:  50 mins

  • 2 parsnips, peeled
  • 1 butternut squash (small)
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard (such as Deli Mustard)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1.  Heat oven to 400°F
2.  Trim top and bottom off parsnips.  Peel and remove the woody core; cut into chunks. Peel butternut squash and cut into chunks.  Peel potatoes and cut into wedges.
3.  Cook the parsnips, squash, and potatoes in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, until slightly tender.  Drain.
4.  Add the oil to a shallow, oven proof, glass dish (medium-large size) and pre-heat in oven for 2-3 minutes.
5.  Once oil is pre-heated, remove from oven and add the vegetables.  Turn to coat in oil.  Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes.  To allow for even cooking turn vegetables halfway through cooking time.
6.  While vegetables are cooking, mix the honey, mustard, and lemon juice.
7.  After 30 minutes, remove vegetables from oven and pour the honey mustard mixture over them.  Stir to coat evenly.
8.  Return vegetables to the oven and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.
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