Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grilling—The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Happy Thursday all—the week is rolling to an end!

The temps here have still been on the up and up which means it’s time to pull out the grill! We’ve actually been grilling for a good three weeks or so now—nothing better than a that tantalizing grilled flavor you just can’t get any other way! However, grilling is not all about just firing it up, closing the lid, and getting a good meal when you open it…there is a lot more it ensues, and safety is a big one.  Normally you don’t think about the downside of cooking—burnt food, fires, anything gone awry, but this past week our town experienced one of the biggest fires they have had since the 60’s and low and behold it started due to a grill out on a patio.


Thankfully no one was hurt, but the whole apartment building is no longer livable. So just let it serve as a reminder to brush up on your grilling safety tips

Gas grill safety tips
When cooking outdoors with a gas grill, check the air tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders or food grease, and follow these tips to reduce the risk of fire or explosion:

  • Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
  • Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease.
  • Always keep propane gas containers upright.
  • Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill or indoors.
  • Never store or use flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill.
  • Never keep a filled container in a hot car or car trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase, which may open the relief valve and allow gas to escape.
    Charcoal grill safety tips
    Charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when it is burned. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments. To reduce the risk of CO poisoning:
  • Never burn charcoal inside of homes, vehicles, tents or campers.
  • Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if ventilation is provided.
  • Since charcoal produces CO fumes until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store the grill indoors with freshly used coals.

Now onto the good side of grilling..the food!




((Boneless Pork Chops))


We wanted to test two new sauces for marinating the pork..


The lovely people at Tribal Moose sent their unique Cranberry BBQ Sauce to accompany our grilling escapades. We didn’t know how well a cranberry flavor would meld with a BBQ sauce, but it was surprisingly a great combo!  We both agreed the sauce is on the spicy side, so you just need a little to achieve a great flavor punch. It also held up really well when used as a marinade and stays on once grilled.


And the next sauce was one I picked up when I was out in Boston a few weeks ago..The Iron Chef Thai Sweet Pepper and Garlic sauce. You could smell this through the top of the bottle before you even open it, so you know it’s not going to be lacking in the flavor department. It’s more like a jelly consistency, so perfect for spreading on as a marinade, however it didn’t stay on too well during the grilling stage and we had a hard time finding the flavor on the one pork chop we used it on. I am sure I can find other uses for it, so no biggie!



*Back left is marinated with Sweet Pepper sauce, front left is Cranberry BBQ sauce and two on the right are just plain*

((Apples and Onions))

When grilling, you can still fit in your 5-a-day!


  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced,
  • few sprays of cooking spray
  • tinfoil
  • dash of pepper

Simple steps: Make a tinfoil pack and spray the inside. Add in apples, onions and pepper. Fold up leaving a vent for steam on the top. Place on low on grill and keep checking for doneness every few minutes..apples will be fork tender.

I tried some new springtime frozen steam veggies from Target..


Thumbs up—you get a lot in a package for the price and the citrus sauce complements grilled meats very well!


What are your favorite grilled meals to make/eat?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Recipe Contest Casserole

This weekend was a bit spontaneous. Instead of doing the same old around town, we (Will and I) decided to take a joy ride to Grand Forks, ND. Funny thing is, I’ve been to a lot of different states, but have never been to either of the Dakota’s and they are right next door!! So Friday we threw the necessities in a duffel bag and headed out for a two hour drive. And yes, unfortunately the Red River is already rising at a fast pace, so much that only one bridge crossing was opened.


We didn’t get into town until dinner time, and so we knew eating was on the agenda soon. We both decided on the Texas Roadhouse.

About the restaurant…

“Hand-cut steaks, award winning ribs, fresh-baked bread and made from scratch side items are the standard at Texas Roadhouse. All of our food is created from scratch with only the highest quality-freshest ingredients. We combine large portions and great value to give you Legendary Food at a reasonable price.

But we're not just about steaks. With great ribs, chicken dishes, fish, salads and lots more, we can satisfy almost any appetite. We guess that's why you all voted us #1 in both Menu Variety and Value in the 2004 Restaurant & Institution Magazine's Choice in Chains Guest Survey.”

Immediately upon entering, I loved the whole “ranch” themed atmosphere. Big barrels of peanuts were scattered around and you could throw the shells right on the floor—kind of fun! You get ridiculously good fresh-baked buns—not lying when I say fresh, they make em’ every 5 minutes—and they are served with an amazing cinnamon butter spread!

The menu offered so much good food to choose from, but I was craving some grilled pork chops which I got paired with a garden salad and baked potato—turned out to be a great choice!


The rest of our little getaway was filled with lots of shopping, and one last special stop to Cabella’s. Even if your not a hunter, fisherman, or any type of outdoors person, it’s still a really fun store to go in because it’s like a zoo, but with all fake animals instead. They do a beautiful job with all the setups!




Now onto something else exciting..I recently entered the 2010 “Better With Bisquick” contest which ended in March.


You could enter dishes in various categories—snacks, apps, main dishes, ethnic inspired, and a healthy twist. Mine would qualify for both main dish and healthy twist. The contest results will be posted April 13th here, so keep an eye out for the winners!

I modeled my dish to be somewhat like a baked ziti dish, but instead of pasta, butternut squash takes the stage and is mixed with a blend of hot Italian sausage, green peppers, diced tomatoes, spinach and ricotta cheese. The filling is then topped with a Parmesan/Bisquick mixture to create an Italian style casserole!

I present to you….

Italian Butternut Bisquick Bake



*1 c cubed butternut squash
*1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
*1/2 green pepper, diced
*2 Italian sausage, finely chopped
*1 clove garlic
*1 c tomato sauce
*1 c diced tomatoes, drained well
*1/4 c pesto
*1 c fat free ricotta cheese
*1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese
*1 c fresh baby spinach
*1 c Bisquick Heart Smart
*1/4 c Eggbeaters
*1/2 c milk
*1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
*1/2 tsp garlic powder
*1 1/2 tsp fennel seed
*Sprinkling of feta cheese, optional


1) Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 8 x 8 baking dish, set aside. Microwave cubed butternut squash for 4 minutes, let cool. Meanwhile, lightly spray skillet, turn to medium heat and add onions, peppers, Italian sausage, and garlic sauteeing until tender, about 3 minutes.
2) Lower heat to low and add in diced tomatoes and pesto. Stir until thoroughly combined--shut of heat and keep covered.
3)Stir together ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and spinach in a bowl. Heat for 20 seconds in microwave if nessecary. Spread ricotta mixture in the bottom of baking dish.
4) Next spread butternut squash evenly over cheese mixture. Top with mixture in skillet. Drizzle 1/2 c tomato sauce over sausage mixture.
5)Mix Bisquick, eggbeaters, milk, seasoning, and fennel seeds together with a wire whisk until combined. Pour evenly over the top of sausage mixture.
6)Put in preheated oven for a total of 30 minutes, removing at the 15 minute mark to add remaining 1/2 c tomato sauce evenly over the top with a rubber spatula.
7)Remove from oven, sprinkle with feta cheese if desired and let sit for 10 minutes--cut into 8 pieces.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In a Snap Shepherd’s Style Dinners

Is it safe to say that spring has sprung in Minnesota? Possibly.

I will probably be posting about a snow storm next week—who knows! But regardless of the usual crazy weather up north, spring is indeed on the way to all corners of the States. Flowers blooming, fresh cut grass, and sunshine filled days are just around the corner. Another big deal of the season is spring cleaning. So for the next few posts I will be posting some of my cleaning tips for different sections of your kitchen and pantry. Do you have any good spring cleaning tips?


  • Start at the top.  Remove everything from the top refrigerator shelf. Work your way from top to bottom 
  • Open everything, and when it doubt, toss it out!
  • Clean your refrigerator thoroughly to get rid of spills, mold, mildew, and bacteria using a diluted chlorinated solution and warm soapy water.
  • Manufacturers recommend against using chlorine bleach because it can damage seals, gaskets and linings.
  • Keep up by wiping your refrigerator weekly with a Lysol wipe to kill germs that could contaminate foods.
  • Open box of baking soda will absorb odors for at least a month or two.
  • Kitchen Sink

  • Check for repairs needed : Check the grout around your tile if you have tile. If so, do you have caulking on hand ? Is your sink functioning properly? Do you need a new sink nozzle? Should the faucet be replaced? Will you need to replace any water filters?
  • Clean your kitchen sink drain and disposal by pouring a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water down the drain. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal, creating the perfect environment for bacterial growth.
  • To keep your drains unclogged from grease, pour a cup of salt water and a cup of soda into the drain followed by a pan of boiling water. The grease will usually dissolve immediately and open the drain.
  • Clean the rest of the kitchen sink with a bleach solution.
  • --------------------------

    Lately, dinners have been showing up in shepherd form..

    Oops—not that style shepherd..

    There—that’s more like it!

    Growing up, I always loved shepherd's pie because it was a comfort food to the fullest! I still love it for that reason, but now I am aware that it is a well-rounded meal containing 4 food groups in one dish—score! Meat, potatoes(carb), veggies, and cheese. But sometimes the standard can get boring as with anything, so I decided to try out some different flavor combos. Pick one, or both to try soon—you won’t be disappointed!!


    BBQ Venison and Corn Shepherd’s Pie

    **Beef can be easily substituted for venison**

    Serves: 6


    • 1 pound venison or lean ground beef
    • 8 medium green onions, sliced (1/2 cup)
    • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce
    • 1 can (11 ounces) Mexicorn whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, drained
    • 1 can (4 ounces) green chiles, undrained
    • 1 package (7-ounce size) Betty Crocker® Cheddar and bacon mashed potatoes (1 pouch)
    • 1 1/2 cups hot water
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine (I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter tub spread)
    • 1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese (2 ounces)


    1. Cook ground venison and 1/4 cup of the onions in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain well. Stir in barbecue sauce, 3/4 cup of the corn and the chilies. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low to keep warm.

    2. Meanwhile, cook potatoes as directed on package for 4 servings, using 1 pouch Potatoes and Seasoning, hot water, milk and butter. Stir in remaining onions and corn; let stand 5 minutes.

    3.Spoon potatoes onto center of beef mixture, leaving 2 1/2- to 3-inch rim around edge of skillet; sprinkle cheese over potatoes and beef mixture. Cover and let stand about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.


    Italian Shepherd's Pie

    Serves: 6-8


  • 1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)
  • 12 oz low-fat bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) fat free cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package (7-ounce size) Betty Crocker® garlic mashed potatoes
  • 1/4 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) sharp reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • Cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Minced fresh parsley, optional
  • opie


  • Line unpricked pastry shell with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Bake at 450° for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove foil; set aside. Reduce heat to 350°.
  • In a skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink; drain well on paper towels. Place cottage cheese and egg in a blender; cover and process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in potatoes, sour cream, oregano, salt and pepper.
  • Place sausage in pastry shell; top with potato mixture. Drizzle with butter. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until set. Sprinkle with cheese; let stand for a few minutes until cheese is melted. Garnish with tomatoes tossed with minced parsley if desired.
  • bite

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Sweets O’ The Irish

    Myspace Graphics
    Hello all!
    How is the week rolling along for you? Mine is no longer filled with days of sleeping in, leisurely paces, etc—spring break is unfortunately over and it’s back to waking up and cramming for school. At least there is only 7 weeks of the semester left!!
    So onto the next holiday/celebration of the year—St.Patrick’s Day! I don’t have one smidgen of Irish in me, but as a person who relishes in making any themed foods, I still participate in all things green! Are you Irish? How do you celebrate St. Pattie’s Day?
    Of course I had to dig up some interesting facts about the holiday before I could bake up a sweet treat
    **Try this little quiz and see how you score!**
    What is colcannon?
    • Corned beef and cabbage
    • Mashed potatoes and spinach
    • Mashed potatoes with onions and greens
    • Corned beef with onions and greens
    A bar in which city recently made the world's largest Irish coffee?
    • Dublin
    • Boston
    • Milwaukee
    • San Francisco
    • New York

    True or false: Irish soda bread is made with club soda.

    • True
    • False

    What is boxty?

    • A traditional Irish stew
    • A mix of raw and cooked potatoes
    • An Irish-style omelet
    • An Irish liquor made from potatoes

    True or false: Bailey's Irish Cream actually hails from Ireland.

    • True
    • False

    One: Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish consisting of mashed potatoes mixed with onions and greens.

    Two: It was the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco.

    Three: False. Though it contains baking soda, Irish soda bread contains no club soda.

    Four: Boxty is a mix of raw and cooked potatoes that's often made into bread, pancakes, and dumplings.

    Five: True. Launched in the 1970s, Baileys is indeed Irish in origin.

    I got 3 out of 5 right. Number 2 and 4 got me! I have actually never heard of boxty—what was your score?

    For each petal on the shamrock
    This brings a wish your way-
    Good health, good luck, and happiness
    For today and every day.


    St.Pattie’s Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes

    Makes: 24



    • 1 box Pillsbury Devil’s Food Cake
    • 1/2 c vegetable oil
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/2 c mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1/2 c Andes mint chips
    • 24 cupcake liners

    Buttercream Frosting:

    • 1 tsp mint extract
    • few drops green food coloring
    • 1 stick butter
    • 3 3-4 c powdered sugar
    • 3-4 tbsp milk


    • Preheat oven to degree called for on cake mix box. Mix cake mix, oil and eggs together thoroughly. Add mini chocolate chips.
    • Line cupcake pan with liners and pour until each is about 2/3 full.
    • Bake as directed.
    • Meanwhile, for the frosting, combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and mix until combined. Add more milk if necessary for spreading consistency.
    • Let cupcakes cool completely—45 minutes.
    • Place frosting in a star fitted pastry bag and pipe frosting on cupcakes. Immediately top with Andes mint chips.



    Monday, March 15, 2010

    The Other Half and Home

    What an awesome vacation I ended up having! It was short but sweet—just what I needed to push through the last 1/4 of the semester. Now I am blogging on the way home from the sky—so fun! I love to travel—wonder where I will head next? Do you have any fun trips coming up?

    I spent Tuesday hanging out with my brother who I only to see once a year if I am lucky, so it’s really refreshing to catch up with him! We went out for lunch at a little diner up the road and had sandwiches..I had a buffalo chicken sandwich which was spicy, but  delish! I am not a huge sandwich fan, but I love trying new flavor combos that I wouldn’t have thought of—now I will have to try making it. =) Then we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and balmy temps, so we walked and got some new pictures of us!




    And yes single ladies, he’s currently available!

    We ended the day with a needed trip to Olive Gardenhello endless breadsticks (can’t get to Olive Garden? Try making their breadsticks like I did! Recipe here.) and salad! But of course that never fills the gap, so I got the Chicken Marsala for my main dish. I did however sub the marsala sauce for their standard marinara sauce—what can I say? I’m a red sauced girl at heart!


    Wednesday I decided to pack in the afternoon because I knew I’d be out semi-late come night time, and Thursday I had the alarm set for 3 a.m. I took the car out and decided to drive to the local grocery store to make the rounds and browse some east coast food. I found lots of great stuff I would’ve loved to have, but unfortunately my suitcase was way over packed full already, so all I could squeeze in was the bars I’ve been dying to try!


    I ended my vacation Wednesday night with the best meal ever! It was simple, yet good—we ate at Danielle’s Diner in Grafton which has been there for quite sometime. There is a bar atmosphere, or a dining which is always a nice option to have. My two aunts and I sat for an hour—chitchat + good food= priceless. I just couldn’t resist the baked haddock stuffed with a lobster stuffingmajor yum! With sweet potato fries and steamed baby carrots on the side it was a well-rounded meal that satisfied my appetite! I even had enough fries for leftovers which is always nice when you know you have a traveling day ahead of you.


    Restaurant leftovers are always good —now I’m just an hour flight from home, and have been sitting for a 3 hour layover in Minneapolis. I ate my packed lunch plus some help from Subway—leftover chicken marsala from Olive Garden, wrapped up in a Flat-Out wrap with spinach, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese, leftover sweet potato fries from Danielle’s Diner, a garden salad with light Italian dressing from Subway, and some roasted kabocha squash with cinnamon—hey what can I say, traveling gives a girl an appetite!!’


    Boston in the morning


    Charles River



    Enjoy your week!

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Boston Bound

    Sunday afternoon I arrived into Boston and was greeted with 60 degrees and sunshine beaming through the clear blue skies. A great start to a vacation! I love flying into the Boston airport—right over the ocean!


    I was ready to get off the over-packed plane and stretch my legs—where better to do it than Harvard Square!? It’s been a tradition to go there every time I come out east—so much energy, people, and sights to see.



    We had planned on eating at the renown Bartley’s Burgers, but being Sunday it was closed unfortunately.



    My aunt & I

    So instead of eating there, we walked around and stumbled on a little cafe. I ended up getting a bowl of unpictured blueberry chicken soup which sounded different, but was surprisingly delicious!!

    Then of course I had to venture inside the gourmet cooking shop! So many things to browse through.


    But backing up to Saturday—I made up a new strata recipe to clean out the fridge. I wrapped it all up in tinfoil to take for snacking on the plane. Then Saturday night, I went out to eat at the Green Mill and got my favorite, the Chicken Parmesan. They upped the serving to 3 chicken breasts now instead of 2, which is way too much to eat at one sitting, especially when you have a big baked potato too. So instead of getting rid of it, I decided to wrap that up to and made this for Monday’s lunch…


    A chicken parmesan sandwich with mushrooms, and some roasted kabocha squash. 

    I also tried a newer flavor of yogurt in the Dannon Light N’ Fit line, the Banana! It was actually really good—no artificial banana taste.


    It was even better topped with some  Tropical Dried Fruit pieces on top…


    Here's the new strata recipe!


    Start Your Day Strata

    ‘Serves 4


    • 1/2 c yellow onion, sliced
    • 1/2 c yellow bell pepper, sliced
    • 1/2 c mushrooms
    • 1/2 c spinach
    • 1/2 c cottage cheese
    • 1/2 c eggbeaters
    • 1/2 c milk (I used 8th Continent soymilk)
    • 1/4 c chunky salsa
    • 2 light whole wheat buns (I use Village Hearth)
    • 5 thin slices of deli ham
    • 1 Yukon gold potato—sliced very thin
    • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
    • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds


    • Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray.
    • Take whole wheat buns and split in half. Tear up into cubes and press evenly into the bottom of the dish.
    • Mix cottage cheese, milk, egg beaters, and salsa until combined.
    • Meanwhile, sauté onions, mushrooms and bell peppers on medium until fork tender—5 minutes. Pour on top of bun cubes and spread evenly.
    • Next, pour egg mixture over the vegetables and let sit for 15 minutes. Layer spinach over the top.
    • Cover the egg mixture evenly with the slices of ham and top with the thin slices of potato. Sprinkle seasoning and fennel seeds evenly over the top.
    • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Cool and cut into 4 large slices.


    We finished the day with dinner at Pub 99. I was craving some good New England seafood, so luckily they had just what I was looking for.

    Captain's Combo Platter - A hearty sampling of all your fried favorites - shrimp, sweet scallops and haddock served with french fries and coleslaw.

    I got it broiled instead of fried, a baked potato instead of fries and butternut squash instead of coleslaw—so good!


    **Stay tuned for the other half of my trip!**