Sweet and Tangy Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

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I pinned a Poppy seed dressing from my friend Torri about 2 weeks ago. Well, last week she e-mailed me a salad that she used the dressing on and said it was fabulous. I was inspired, and wanted to try it for myself. Usually my husband and I will have salads one night a week to make ourselves think we are eating healthy. So I changed it up from our typical Chicken Caesar Salads, and decided to try the Poppy seed dressing that my friend Torri raved about. And let me tell you, it was everything she said it was. With a spring mix as the base, I added some mozzarella cheese, dried cranberries, bacon, candied nuts and chicken, and we had ourselves Salad Night. I don’t know if you would necessarily call this a “healthy” salad but it was definitely delicious, and filling too. It was even my first time making candied nuts, and it still came out delicious. I actually used a Candied Nuts recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. They were a perfect combination of sweet and crunchy.

Throwing the salads together certainly does not take that long, but it helps to have the ingredients on hand. If you know you do not have a whole lot of time, try having the candied nuts, bacon and chicken prepped ahead of time so they are ready to go when you need them. Make the first bite count!

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Salads

Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:
1 (7 ounce) bag of spring mix
1/2 cup dried cranberries, divided
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
6-8 pieces of thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped, divided
2/3 cup candied nuts, recipe HERE, divided
1/2 pound chicken, cooked and cubed (or shredded), divided

Poppy seed Dressing Ingredients:
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

Directions:
1. To make the dressing: Combine sugar, vinegar, salt, ground mustard, and onion powder in a food processor and pulse a few times. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil. Transfer to a dish or bowl and stir in poppy seeds.

2. Divide the bag of spring mix between 2 large bowls. Divide the dried cranberries, shredded mozzarella, bacon, candied nuts and chicken between the two bowls of lettuce. Drizzle on your desired amount of dressing and enjoy!

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Homemade Croutons

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Homemade croutons… sounds so simple and sort of a boring post, right? But there are actually tons of uses for croutons (not to mention you won’t be throwing away and wasting that day old bread) :). Croutons are great on salads, like the Chicken Caesar Salad, or soups, in stuffing (like next week for Thanksgiving), and as a topping for casseroles. I have a bread machine and have a great recipe for French bread that I received from my aunt. The recipe makes two fresh, delicious loaves of bread and sometimes my husband and I don’t finish it before it goes stale. Instead of throwing away the leftovers, I decided to make homemade croutons. They are so easy and are great to have on hand. You can even experiment with different seasonings, maybe a spicy crouton with red pepper flakes or a sweet crouton with cinnamon and sugar. The possibilities are endless, and I’m getting excited just thinking of all the options I am going to experiment with as I write this post. So, please don’t be bored by my simple post, but take it as a gateway to a great, crunchy addition to your next meal. Make the first bite count!

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Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 loaf French bread, 1 day old
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Slice the bread into about 1/2 inch slices. Then I cut through the middle of each slice horizontally and 2-3 slices vertically, depending on how big that particular slice was. It really just depends on the size of croutons you desire.

3. Place croutons on a large baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Use your hands to toss everything together to coat all pieces.

4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until pieces of bread are golden brown. I usually give the pan a shake about half way through to toss the pieces a little and have them brown more evenly.

What’s for Dinner? Week of November 17, 2013

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As promised, the weekly dinner menu for this week is presented to you. It’s altered slightly in that now it will simply be a collection of recipes, some my own and some from Pinterest, that will give you ideas for dinner for the week to come. Some links will take you directly to a recipe within my blog while others while take you to another website completely where the recipe was used from. You will be linked to blogs that inspire me so I encourage to peruse their sites as well.  I will specify the location of the links, as to give appropriate credit, but it is certainly a combination. I certainly don’t create a new meal for dinner every night, and I don’t want you to think that. That would certainly take a lot of time and testing to get every dinner just right. Some meals I borrow from Pinterest or a simple search on the internet. Because, let’s face it, some days I know I am not going to have time to create a dinner and want something quick and easy where all I have to do is just follow directions. I think this process will give you an idea of how I create my menus, giving you ideas in turn, but will also allow me to spend time creating my own recipes to post throughout the week.

The menu this week is a good combination of health and comfort foods. The chicken pot pie, family style, is a recipe that came from The Cooking Mom. It is simple to throw together and tastes great. The only change, however, was instead of the basket weave on top, I simply unrolled the seamless crescent dough over the baking dish and cut some slits to allow air to escape. Still came out great and was so easy! My husband and I play in a volleyball league every Tuesday, so that’s why the salads. It is a recipe I have posted before, but sometimes it is just a great healthy, quick go-to. The chicken tortilla soup comes from Baked by Rachel and it is down in the slow cooker.  Another healthy meal that was extremely easy to throw together.  And, finally, there is the Mexican Pizza, a recipe I posted just this past week.  It was so good, I had to incorporate on the menu for the week.  Friday was leftover day and there were plenty of leftovers between the chicken pot pie and the chicken tortilla soup.  So plan out the menu for the week with recipes you love.  Write down the ingredients that you do not have on hand, head to the grocery store and have dinners to look forward to all week long.  Make the first bite count!

MENU

MondayChicken Pot Pie (The Cooking Mom)

TuesdayChicken Caesar Salads (Make the First Bite Count)

WednesdayChicken Tortilla Soup (Baked by Rachel)

ThursdayMexican Pizza (Make the First Bite Count)

FridayLeftovers!

Mexican Pizza

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I know I’m Italian, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to eat other types of food. Mexican is my husband’s favorite, so I try to incorporate it into the weekly menu whenever I get the chance. It is a good change from the chicken and pasta that usually is our go-to. This Mexican pizza was so tasty and easy to put together. It essentially has all the elements of creating a taco dinner except that you create a pizza instead. It’s a fun and different way to eat the same old taco stuff.

For this Mexican pizza I actually used ground venison. My brother-in-law is a hunter and when we were visiting my husband’s family a few weekends ago we acquired several pounds of venison. It really tastes just like beef only better for you. Now, if you do not have access to venison or the idea weirds you out (I understand, it took me some time to get used to it also), you can definitely substitute with ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, or any other ground meat of your choice. And the meat is seasoned in a homemade taco seasoning, probably seasonings you have on hand and didn’t even know you could put together. Everything is fresh and homemade (besides the tortillas), and tastes great. So take your taco night and revamp it a little by making some Mexican pizzas instead. Make the first bite count!

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Mexican Pizza

Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2-3

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
1 pound ground meat (venison, beef, turkey, etc.)
Taco Seasoning (Recipe follows)
3/4 cup Taco Sauce, divided (I used Ortega Original in Medium)
4 (8 inch) tortillas (I used whole wheat)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
toppings of your choice (lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, sour cream, salsa, etc.)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the ground meat and break up with a spoon. Stir occasionally until no longer pink and cooked through. If using beef, you may want to drain off any excess fat.

3. Add the taco seasoning and 1/4 cup of the taco sauce to the meat and stir. Cook another 2 minutes.

4. Place 2 tortillas on the baking sheet. Place half of meat on each tortilla and spread out to cover. I left about a 1-inch border around the edge so it would not spill out. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over top each meat-covered tortilla. Place a tortilla on top of each pizza. Bake for 10 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and spread a 1/4 cup of taco sauce on top of each pizza. Sprinkle each with another 1/2 cup cheese. Bake another 5-6 minutes or until cheese is melted.

6. Remove from oven and top with your favorite toppings. Use a spatula and transfer each pizza to a plate. After allowing to cool for 2-3 minutes, use a pizza cutter and cut into 4 slices.

Taco Seasoning

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions:
1. Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Brown Butter String Beans with Toasted Almonds

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I truly apologize that I have been MIA the past week and a half or so. I truly missed being able to post recipes and pictures.  But my husband and I had a few days off and were traveling a little bit. We went to visit some friends in Eastern Long Island and had a fabulous time. It was a weekend full of shopping, dinners out, and wine tastings. On the first day, the boys went golfing while my friend and I went to the nearby outlet stores. We found some amazing discounts and definitely put a dent in the credit card. But I justify it by the fact that I picked up a Christmas gift or too as well 🙂 It was definitely worth the trip. That night we went for a fabulous sushi dinner at a local place and ate edamame, dumplings, fresh tuna and, of course, a little saki. The next day we visited two different wineries in the area and then a vodka tasting. I know, vodka tasting, crazy, right?? But they had all different flavored vodkas made right there on Long Island that you could try. And they were delicious. That night we went to an amazing Italian restaurant where everything was amazing; from the salad to the bread to the fried calamari to the clams casino to the chicken parm to the chicken marsala with prosciutto and melted provolone cheese (my husband’s dinner that I wish I had gotten).

The weekend finally ended with a trip to my parents on the way home to celebrate their birthdays. My aunt made a delicious ham dinner along with a Baked Honey Crisp Apple Baked Brie. It was melted brie cheese with softened honey crisp apples and brown sugar, butter, pecans and bacon. Such a great combination of sweet and savory, it was definitely a crowd pleaser.

So I apologize again for not posting my weekly menus but, as you can see, it has been a little busy. I will be posting a menu for the week of November 17 but I did not want to leave you totally hanging until then. I made a side dish about a week ago that has turned string beans into my new favorite vegetable (and I’m not a big fan of many vegetables). The string beans are cooked until just tender crisp, mixed with toasted sliced almonds and then coated in a brown butter. The butter when it is browned has a great nuttiness about it and the toasted almonds just enhance that great nutty flavor. Only 3 ingredients and simple to throw together, I know this will be a go-to side dish for you as well. Make the first bite count!

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Brown Butter String Beans with Toasted Almonds

Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Fresh strings beans, about 4-5 handfuls
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt, to flavor water

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Place sliced almonds on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. You will start to smell them to let them know they are done.

2. Cut or trim with your thumb, the ends off the strings beans where they were picked from the plant. Put string beans in a medium pot, fill with water until just covering string beans, and place a lid on top. Bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling, add salt to season the string beans and continue boiling about 5 minutes, just until the string beans become a bright green color. They should still have a snap to them. Drain and run under cold water to stop from cooking further.

3. To save pots and making cleaning easier, I used the same pot the strings beans were cooking in and placed the butter in it. Cook over medium heat until the butter browns. It will melt, then start to foam and then brown bits will start to form. Do not overcook, as the butter will burn. Sometimes it takes me a few tries but try not to take it off the heat too early either (I’ve done that too) or the butter will not have the same nutty flavor if it has not completely browned.

4. Toss the strings beans with the almonds and brown butter and serve warm.

What’s for Dinner? Week of November 3, 2013

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So a day later than I wanted to post, but better late than never.  This weekend was crazy.  Friday afternoon we left to visit my husband’s family.   My brother in law got engaged and there was an engagement party Saturday.  So between visiting with family, helping to prep for the party and enjoying great food and drinks, I sort of lost track of time on the menu.  Sunday was still spent with family and we didn’t get home until almost 10 pm Sunday night.   But tonight, you get to enjoy!

There is a Chinese-inspired beef and broccoli, healthy buffalo chicken salad, Italian-inspired spinach cheese chicken roll-up and a tortellini and sausage dish.  Even if they can’t fit into your meals this week, I encourage you to add these recipes to a future menu.  They are all delicious.  And there is a great variety of meats and pastas, to please your entire family.  Getting ideas is sometimes the hardest part of weekly menu planning but hopefully browsing through these posts will help.  Another idea of how to decide on meals for the week:  have each member of the family choose a dinner.  That night that family member can take pride in having helped choose the meal as well as maybe even helped prepare it.  So browse through, get some ideas, plan that weekly dinner menu and get cooking!  Make the first bite count!

MENU

MondayTortellini and Sausage

TuesdayBuffalo Chicken Salads

WednesdayBeef and Broccoli | Rice

ThursdaySpinach Cheese Chicken Roll-ups | Pasta

FridayLeftovers!