Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spinach Salad

photo by Grundlepuck on flickr

For those of you checking in for the first time in 2010, Happy New Year! The Green household had a wonderful holiday break but, as usual, a little too much indulging on my part. From Christmas baking, chocolate fountains, Mom's turkey stuffing and the like, I am vowing to get back on track and start the New Year off in a good way.

So I will leave you with my all-time favourite salad. I usually make this for lunch during the week since the ingredients are at the ready and can be tossed together quickly. Also, apple cider vinegar has lots of benefits for weight loss and detoxification; a feel-good ingredient that subsides the festive guilt a little (just a little!). Check out more info on apple cider vinegar in this blog's 'A La Mode' sidebar.

Tracey's Quick and Easy Spinach Salad

Couple handfuls of baby spinach (prewashed; sold in containers)
Handful of Grape Tomatoes
Couple teaspoons of Pine Nuts or Walnuts
1 *Avocado; sliced
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon virgin olive oil
Crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese
Cracked black pepper

Toss everything together into one big, tasty salad!

*Although fattening, avocados are high in lipoprotein, or "good fat". This lowers the risk of heart disease. They are also high in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance that lowers blood cholesterol levels.

popeye photo by kittymiawww on flickr

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing you all a fantastic and memory-filled holiday season. Merry Christmas! See you all in 2010.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Tracey's Chicken Soup Remedy

Right now, I have a very sick and bored 7-year-old at home. Poor little guy - right before Christmas. Whenever we get a bug in our house, I go into nurture mode and whip up a batch of chicken soup. An old fashioned remedy but one I stand by. Wishing you all the best of health for the holiday season. ♥ ♥ ♥

Tracey's Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup

1 - 4 lb. roasting chicken
1 large UNpeeled onion; quartered (Tracey's losing it! Unpeeled? Yes! Unpeeled!)
1 medium carrot, chopped in big chunks
1 medium celery rib, chopped in big chunks
1 cup white wine (I usually add more)
6 - 10 whole black peppercorns
Chicken stock or water

salt and pepper to taste
Sliced Carrots
Sliced Celery
Whole Wheat Egg Noodles

Place chicken breast-side down in a large stock pot. Add next five ingredients: onion, carrot, celery, wine and peppercorns. Add enough chicken stock or water to cover the top of the chicken. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low until chicken is tender - about 1 hour (when the legs pull off really easily, it's done).

Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool. Strain mixture and discard all vegetables. Place broth back in pot.

Once chicken is cool, remove meat from the bones and add to pot.

One hour before serving, add sliced carrots and celery to pot and simmer on low until veggies are tender. Cook egg noodles separately and add to each serving bowl. Ladle soup over noodles and serve.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Monkey Bars

These. Are. Awesome. I can't possibly show you in words or photos how good these taste. My friend, Pam, introduced me to this recipe and I now make them every Christmas; often filling multiple tins with these mouth-watering, melt in your mouth, bars. Great gifts for teachers, friends hosting parties, or any other person lucky enough to cross your path if you're willing to share.

These are my Kryptonite. In fact, I think I'm going to rename them just that. Kryptonite Bars. Be warned.

Kryptonite Bars

1 sleeve Premium Plus Soda Crackers (I use Whole Wheat)
1/2 lb. butter (plus butter for pan)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 bag semi sweet mini morsels

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease cookie sheet with butter. Line sheet with parchment paper ensuring that edges of cookie sheet are also lined (I usually let paper sit higher than the sheet itself).

Cover parchment paper with single layer of crackers - edge to edge. Heat butter and sugar on high on stove in saucepan.

Boil three minutes - stirring constantly! Pour very hot mixture over crackers and spread.
Bake five minutes. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips; spreading quickly as chips melt. Cool slightly and put in fridge.

Let harden and peel paper off back. Break up into pieces. Store in fridge or freezer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beer Beef Stew

photo courtesy of notexactlybento on flickr

Wow, that wind is creating quite a chill! Definitely in the mood for some comfort food on this cold, winter day. This recipe from my Mom's collection is one of my absolute favourites.

The first time I had this, I was home from the hospital with our first baby. It was a blizzardy, January day - the year of a record snow fall (1999). The storm had definitely put a dent in the nursing staff while I was in labour. Weirdly enough, one nurse who was on duty had just been in an accident earlier that day. She described her story involving a kind stranger who assisted her, inviting her into his home and calling for help. That kind stranger happened to be my twin brother. This same nurse helped my daughter enter the world - how's that for Karma!!
Where'd that baby go?
Who is this girl fitting into all my shoes??

Anyway, back to the food. My Mom had this stewing in the oven while I rested with little Samantha. It was so nice to be taken care of by Mom's home cooking. Hard to believe that was over ten years ago and how nice that the aroma of this dish flowing through my kitchen brings me back to that very special day. Thanks Mom!

Mom's Beer Beef Stew

3 lbs. Stewing Beef
2-3 Diced Onions
2 Cans Tomato Soup
1 Beer (I like to use Guinness but any kind works)
Salt and Pepper
1 Small Package Baby Carrots

Throw all ingredients into a roasting pan, except carrots. Bake at 325 for two-three hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in a bit of gravy browning if desired (I do on occasion).

During last hour of cooking, add baby carrots. Serve over mashed potatoes or noodles.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Layers, Layers, Layers

My kids keep saying I'm in denial that biking season is over - hence the reason my bike rack still remains affixed to my trailer hitch. But may I just state, in my defense, that if you dress appropriately in layers, you can prolong your riding season!

Admittedly, I did experience some toe-numbing rides, but one little accessory changed all of that. Thanks to my friend, George (Ironman Finisher and Youth Group Leader extraordinaire), I have been able to keep my pedals moving. He bought me these great little booties that slip over my bike shoes and my toes are now snug and warm as I pedal my way to mountain bike happiness. Thanks again, George!

In keeping with the layer theme, I am leaving you with my favourite lasagna recipe. Stay posted for an update as to when I'll cave and remove, albeit dismally, my bike rack from my truck.

Tracey's Favourite Lasagna
I hate messing around with lasagna noodles; boiling and working with them. They're such slimy little suckers! So do yourselves a favour and grab fresh lasagna sheets - so much easier to work with!

photo courtesy of ninazer0 on flickr

1# ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 28-oz. can tomatoes
1 12-oz. can tomato paste
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1 package mild italian sausage (about 6 sausages)
Fresh Whole Wheat Lasagna sheets (found in the deli section)
1 15-16 oz. container lite Ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 16-oz mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Prepare meat sauce: In saucepan over high heat, cook ground beef and onion, stirring frequently - until all pan juices evaporate and beef is well browned. Add tomatoes with their liquid and next 7 ingredients. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for thirty minutes. Stir occassionally. Skim fat.

Meanwhile, place skillet on medium-high heat and bring 2" of water to boil (about 1 - 1.5 cups). Add italian sausage and cook until no longer pink inside. Add more water if needed. Cool, slice each link into rounds about 1/4" think and set aside.

Mix ricotta cheese with eggs. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In 13" x 9" baking dish, arrange half of noodles. Top with half of ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Top with half of sauce. Then add sausage as your next layer. Repeat all layers. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake lasagna for 1 hour or until heated through. Top broil if desired. Remove from oven. Let stand 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Four Layer Square (aka Sex in a Pan)

photo courtesy of reinvented on flickr

When we spent part of our summer vacations at my grandmother's house, she prided herself in fattening us up during our stay (always fretting we were too thin). She would weigh us on the first and last day, nodding in approval when that scale marked her success with this endeavor.

This recipe was one of my Grandpa's favourites. My Grandma could never refer to this by its real name (Sex in a Pan) so she renamed it 'Four Layer Square'. But once you taste it, you'll know the reasoning behind the original label - sooo good! It was hard to turn this down once we entered adulthood. Her freezer always had a tray of this delectable dessert waiting for us and it was a true test of willpower to turn it down. That, and those late-night milkshakes...

Four Layer Square (aka Sex in a Pan)

1st layer:
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
3 Tbsp. sugar

Blend and press into a 9" x 13" pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes then cool.

2nd Layer:

Whip together:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 Tbsp. large size Cool Whip

Spread over cooled base.

3rd Layer:

Mix 2 cups cold milk with 2 small packages instant chocolate pudding. Pour over 2nd layer. Put in fridge until set.

4th Layer:

Spread remaining cool whip over chocolate layer. Sprinkle with crushed nuts if desired. Refrigerate.

Keep in freezer if desired and take out as needed; letting it thaw just a bit before serving.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mushroom Risotto

photo courtesy of Reggie I on flickr
We were just discussing how good Risotto is over the weekend. If you have the patience to babysit this dish at the stove, you will be well rewarded! This is the dish that George Castanza's girlfriend ooed and aahed over in the restaurant in Seinfeld, and now I know exactly how she felt! I often make this when serving fish since Jeremy isn't a seafood guy and he loves it.

Mushroom Risotto

6 cups chicken broth, divided
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 lbs. fresh mushrooms, sliced thin
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white win
salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.

Warm 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan ov medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until soft (about two minutes) Remove mushrooms and their liquid. Set aside. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to skillet and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil. About two minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden colour pour in wine. Stir constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup broth at a time, stirring continuously until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente (around 15-20 minutes).

Remove from heat. Stir in mushrooms with their liquid. Stir in butter and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

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