Garbanzo Bean Salad

Simple Garbanzo Bean Salad

Ingredients:

2 15oz. cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
¼ of a sweet Walla Walla onion
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ of a medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 5oz can of tuna, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp garlic powder

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the garbanzo beans, onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and tuna.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and garlic powder.

Add the dressing to the garbanzo beans, and mix to coat the beans and vegetables with the dressing.

Cover, chill, and serve cold.

Chickpeas are a healthy addition to your diet, and this simple garbanzo bean salad is an easy way to enjoy chickpea health benefits. Don’t be afraid to experiment with this salad. If you like, you can use bacon instead of tuna, or add a little bit of spice with a drop of hot sauce in the dressing. Learn more about the health benefits of chickpeas here, then give this garbanzo bean salad a try.

garbanzo Beans – $3.95
from: OliveNation

Sausage Stuffed Squid

Seafood SpecialsI had wanted to try stuffed squid for a long time. My wife was gone to play a concert this afternoon, so I figured this would be a nice meal for her to come home to. Squid needs to be cooked either quickly over high heat, or slowly over low heat. Cooked low and slow, as in this recipe, the squid turns out nice and tender, and the sausage stuffing is cooked through perfectly.

Ingredients:

4 oz. Italian sausage, casing removed if necessary

1 egg

2 Tbsp bread crumbs

12 small squid tubes

1 Tbsp oil

½ medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup white wine

1 28oz. can of crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp dried oregano

Directions:

In a small mixing bowl, combine the sausage, egg, and breadcrumbs. Place the mixture in a plastic bag, and cut off one corner of the bag.

Using the plastic bag, squeeze the sausage mixture into each squid tube, filling about halfway full. Do not overfill. You may have some sausage mixture left over, see note below. Seal the end of each tube with a toothpick.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the stuffed squid, and cook briefly on each side, about 1 minute. Remove from the pan, and set aside.

Add the onion and garlic to the pan, and cook, stirring until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add the white wine, and cook until the wine is thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, and oregano, and cook until thickened, another 5 minutes.

Add the squid to the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.

Remove the squid from the pan, and spoon the sauce over the top.

Serves 3-4.

Note: You may have some sausage mixture left over. If you do, you can add it to the pan after cooking the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally to brown the sausage. After you’ve cooked the extra sausage, then add the wine and the other ingredients.

Peanut Butter And Banana Pie

Ingredients:

1 9 inch pie crust

1 Cup creamy peanut butter

1 8oz. package cream cheese

1 Cup powdered sugar

1 Cup heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 medium bananas

Directions:

Cook the pie crust according to package directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, cream cheese, and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk the whipping cream with the other 1/2 cup of the sugar and the vanilla. Whisk until soft peaks form.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture.

Slice one of the bananas into the bottom of the pie crust. Add one half of the peanut butter mixture, spreading it evenly over in the pie crust.

Slice the second banana onto the layer of peanut butter mixture. Add the remaining peanut butter mixture, and smooth the top.

Place the pie into the freezer for one hour to set. Remove from the freezer, and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Note: For a sugar free version of the pie, you can replace the sugar with Splenda.

Leftover Makeovers

What do you do when a meal is finished?  Most of us wash the dishes and wrap up the leftovers, but what happens to the leftover portions not eaten?  Do they get consumed later or do they sit in the refrigerator until they start to smell and you finally throw them out?  If you tend to do the latter, how about saving some time and money by learning how to use those leftovers in new ways to surprise your family at dinner time. 

Some people like leftovers and some do not. Still then, many will eat them one day out, but quickly get tired of eating the same thing over and over.  Here’s a way to fix the problem if you or someone in your family is the same way. Let’s start with an example. 

You prepare a roasted pork loin and rice for dinner one night.  The family wants something else for dinner the following night so the pork loin gets pushed to the back of the refrigerator.  Normally, that’s where it will stay until you clean out the fridge, right?  Not anymore.  Let’s do something to keep that pork loin from going to waste. 

Eating leftovers the way they were originally served, is probably what’s turning family members off from wanting it again the next night.  Your family doesn’t have to eat the pork loin as is.  So, chop that pork loin up into bite size pieces.   

Now you’re probably thinking, ok that’s great, but what do I do with it now?  In a large skillet or wok, stir fry the leftover rice with a bag of frozen veggies, an egg, and some of the chopped pork loin to make pork fried rice. Add a little soy sauce and you’ve got a whole new dinner for your hungry family. 

This is just one way that leftovers can be turned into a new dish with a new flavor. The same can also be done using chicken, seafood, or beef.  Let’s take a look at beef. 

If you have hamburgers left from dinner, chop them up until they resemble ground beef again. The meat can be combined with chili powder and taco sauce to make beef tacos.  Or, add some beans, chopped peppers and tomatoes, and sauce to create a pot of chili.  If you have the imagination, there are an unlimited number of possibilities of what you can do with meats and side dishes from a previous night’s dinner. 

Using a little leftover magic can make one meal last for two, three, or even four more days.  But, you don’t have to eat it all in the same week.  Fix a new meal with the leftovers and freeze it until you are ready to have that particular meat again. On that day, dinner will already be made, all you’ll need to do is heat it up.  Yes, it really can be just that simple. 

Your family will be amazed at your ability to transform any meal into a new creation they will enjoy.  Besides that, you will save money on your grocery bill and won’t be throwing it away in the trash can as spoiled leftovers.  Try these and similar ideas to expand your family’s palate.

A Visit To Naples

My wife and I recently got back from a Mediterranean cruise. One of our stops on the cruise was in Naples, where pizza was invented. While we were there, we got to try some of the pizza, and it was incredible.

I had heard of a pizzeria in Naples called Da Michele, which is supposed to have the best pizza in the world. They have only two kinds of pizza at Da Michele. The first type of pizza is Pizza Marinara, which is topped simply with tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Their other pizza is Pizza Margherita, which is topped with tomatoes, mozzerella, and basil. Pizza Margherita is named after Queen Margherita, who was married to King Umberto I. The Pizza Margherita also represents the colors of the Italian flag, red, white, and green.

Neapolitan pizza is much different than we are used to in the United States. Here, we top pizzas with pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon, peppers, mushrooms, olives, and a load of cheese. We have thin crust New York pizzas, and Chicago deep dish pizzas, as well as many other variations. In Naples, they have pizzas other than Marinara and Margherita, but those two are the staples of Neapolitan pizza. In Naples, and the rest of Italy for that matter, the pizzas are not as big as American Pizzas. The typical pizza in Naples is about 12 inches, and is intended to be one serving. That might seem a lot, but the pizza is much lighter than ours. My wife polished off a Pizza Marinara by herself.

In Naples, the pizza crust is thin and chewy. The pizzas are baked quickly in a very hot, wood fired oven. Ours was ready just minutes after we had ordered them. They do not load the pizzas as heavily with toppings as we do, but their ingredients are in perfect balance.

As I stated earlier, I had heard of a pizzeria called Da Michele, so when we had a chance to go into Naples on our own, we went looking for Da Michele. Unfortunately, many of the streets in Naples are not marked, so we easily got lost. Eventually, however, I did find a landmark which I recognized from the map, so we got turned in the right direction, and we found Da Michele… and a huge line. We decided that we didn’t want to wait that long. Fortunately, there was another pizzeria nearby which was not as crowded. So, my wife and I went in and ordered. We had a bit of trouble, since neither of us speak Italian, but we got our order. My wife had the Marinara, and I had the Margherita. I have to say that was the best pizza that I have ever had. All of the ingredients were in perfect balance, and the flavors blended together wonderfully.

The next time we’re in Naples, I definitely plan on going back to the pizzeria that we visited. I can’t remember the name, but I remember where it is. But until our next visit, I may just have to have a pizza oven built in my back yard, so I can make Neapolitan Pizza at home.

Quinoa Pilaf

Quinoa Pilaf

Ingredients for Quinoa Pilaf:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 ribs celery,  diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
1/4 tsp oregano
6 cups cooked quinoa
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped almonds, dry roasted

Directions For Quinoa Pilaf:

Put olive oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onion, celery, carrot, green pepper, and red pepper, and cook, stirring until vegetables start to soften, but are still somewhat crisp.

Stir in garlic and oregano and heat for 1 minute.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in the quinoa, mixing well.

salt and pepper to taste.

Toss in roasted almonds and serve hot either as a side dish or light main dish.

Note: To roast almonds, put in dry skillet over medium heat and toss until lightly browned.

If you have never had quinoa, you should try this quinoa pilaf. Quinoa is a grain that is high in fiber and protein, making it extremely healthy. This quinoa pilaf is a great way to try quinoa.

Meal Planning

Sitting down with your family and writing out a meal plan is extremely important to saving money and creating a smart shopping habit. Some families like to meal plan by the month, others by the week and for a select few, there is a nightly meal plan. There are certain benefits to each one of these types of meal plans as well as certain drawbacks. No matter what style you choose, each one will save you money and time when it comes to healthy dinners.

The plans:

Monthly – These meal plans are extremely helpful for families on the go. Monthly meal plans help big families and active families to see what is for dinner on any given night. It also allows those who are doing the planning to fit certain foods around the monthly schedule. For instance, on a night where all three kids need to be in different places within thirty minutes of each other, pizza might be a good alternative. Monthly menu plans may also include pre-preparation and freezing, making it easier as a grab and go type meal.

Weekly – Weekly meal plans are usually more typical due to the frequency of store visits. Most families abide by the weekly meal plan, buying just enough food for that week, so a minimal amount goes bad. This meal plan is best for a family that may not be on a tight schedule, but on a schedule none-the-less.

Nightly – Nightly meal plans offer the most flexibility when it comes to meal plans. These meal plans are usually for people who live near a store or market and are extremely health conscious. This specific meal plan usually includes copious amounts of fresh fruits and veggies. Since the meal planner has all day to come up with what they would like for dinner, these meals are usually more in depth when it comes to preparing.

The savings:

Meal planning in itself is a giant cost savings habit. It is a habit because in today’s microwave society, where we want everything instantly, it is extremely easy to stop at the drive through or order out if in a pinch for time. The savings comes in with advanced planning.

If you spend ten dollars a day for food at a restaurant, you can easily spend $200 a month, which equates to $2,400 per year. If you also figure that meal planning allows you to eat those same meals for five dollars a day, you are already saving over a thousand dollars a year.

Food is much less expensive if purchased in a store. Just take a look at the cost of a steak in a restaurant versus buying that same cut in a store and cooking at home. The cost saving is ridiculous.

Sit down and try out each type of meal planning to see which one works best for your family. If you do need a night to eat out, make sure it is in your food budget, so you don’t end up with more month than you have money. No one likes a ramen meal plan if they can help it. Once you have decided which meal plan technique works best for you, find a set time to sit down and write out what you plan on cooking that evening, week or month. Stick to the game plan and watch your cost savings grow.

Red Fruit Punch

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C of sugar
8 quarts of water, divided
4 (.14 oz.) pkgs. unsweetened strawberry drink mix
3 (6 oz.) cans frozen orange juice, thawed
2 1/4 C frozen lemonade concentrate
2 (46 oz.) cans unsweetened pineapple juice
2 liters of ginger ale

Directions:

Place the sugar into a large saucepan.

Pour 2 quarts of the water into the pan and place the pan over medium heat.

Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar has completely melted.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the strawberry drink mix.

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

When ready to serve place the syrup mixture into a large punch bowl.

Stir in the orange juice and lemonade until well combined.

Add the pineapple juice and remaining water and stir again.

Pour in the ginger ale and serve with ice. 

Makes 3 gallons

For a holiday celebration, or for a summer barbecue, this is an easy fruit punch recipe. Delicious and refreshing.

Picking Your Crock Pot

How Do I Choose The Right Crock Pot?

Thirty or forty years ago, there were only a few models of crock pots to choose from. Today there are hundreds if not thousands of options in the world of crock pots. Over the years, improvements have been made, new brands have come to the market, and the world is reinventing what the slow cooker can do. When it comes to selecting a crock pot, you need to know what to look for, what you absolutely need your crock pot to do, and your bottom line. Let’s take a look at a few guidelines for choosing the crock pot that’s right for you:

The Basic Structure

A crock pot is made up of three main parts; 1) the outer shell or base; 2) the inner stoneware or crock insert, and 3) the lid.

The outer shell should stay rather cool to the touch. You should be able to wash off the surface with a damp rag without too much trouble. Look for skid-proof feet on the bottom to keep the crock pot from slipping around the counter top while you’re preparing your meal. The outer shell also houses the controls, so check to see if they are sturdy, well situated, and easy to see.

The inner stoneware section, or ‘crock,’ should be rather resilient and feel sturdy. The crock is not unbreakable, so if you drop it on a solid floor, it may break. However, it should feel solid in your hands. The best crock pots have a removable insert so it makes serving and clean up easy. You’ll also want to be sure you can get your hands on the crock handles and easily lift it out of the outer shell without struggling.

The lid, while simple in design, is one of the reasons crock pots work so well. The best lids have a separate knob protruding out of the top. This separation of materials helps to keep the knob cool to the touch while the rest of the device heats up. The lid should also have a good seal around the outside edge, in order to keep the heat and liquids from escaping. Glass lids used to be the standard, but nowadays the plastic ones are just as nice and they have the added benefit of being lighter, which makes them easier to handle.

What You Need vs What You Want

While the three basic parts come standard on all crock pots; the base, insert, and lid. Beyond those three basic elements, you’ll find some very nice, convenient features you might want to look at.

Your basic crock pot has one switch on the outside of the base, sort of a dial. This switch usually has three or four settings. The standard settings you’ll find are High, Low, and Warm. There is a fourth setting of “Off” on many crock pots today, but years ago, it was common to unplug the crock pot when you wanted to turn it off.

More modern crock pots allow you to control more than those three basic settings. Digital crock pots are designed to give you control over the actual temperature of the crock pot. You can also set a timer to let you know when your dish needs to be stirred, have ingredients added, or is done.

Programmable crock pots allow the user to set the temperature on high, then automatically turn down to low at a chosen time during the cooking process. While it usually seems good to have more control, these added features may make things a little difficult. Depending on your style, this may make crock pot cooking seem more involved, especially when most crock pot recipes are written with simple High and Low settings.

Determining the size of the crock pot is also important. The larger the family, the bigger the crock pot.  However, a large stew can still be made in a four or five quart crock pot.  You’ll want to consider the area you have on your counter top, too.  Also, the shape is important.  If you’ve cooking a lot of bigger chickens or roasts, you might want to consider an oval shape.  If your crock pot will be used mainly for soup, a deeper model may be just right. If you are cooking appetizers and snacks mostly, a smaller crock pot will probably suit you just fine.

The Bottom Line

Crock pots can range from ten dollars to well over a couple hundred. The most important aspect of picking out the perfect crock pot for you is to look at your budget and find the best value for your money. Look at size, construction of parts, and how well it all goes together. If taken care of, your crock pot will last a lifetime and will pay for itself over and over again. Just remember, you don’t have to get the fanciest crock pot to cook a great meal for your family.

Chipotle Pepper Deviled Eggs

Spicy Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

12 hard boiled eggs
1/2 C of mayonnaise
1/2 C of green chiles, chopped very fine
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 t of garlic salt
6 teaspoons of salsa

Directions:

Cut the eggs in half, remove the yolks to a mixing bowl and place the whites on a serving platter.

Mash the yolks with a fork or potato masher until well mashed.

Add the mayonnaise, green chilies, chipotle pepper and salt to the yolks and mix until blended together well.

Fill each egg white with the yolk mixture.

Place 1/2 t of the salsa on top of each filled egg.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve.

Makes 12 servings

Deviled eggs are always a huge favorite when our family gets together for holidays or birthdays. This particular deviled egg recipe has an extra kick from the chipotle peppers and green chiles. Keep in mind these are spicy, so make sure that you’re serving these deviled eggs to those who appreciate the spice.