Category Archives: Let’s Cook!

Toasted Garlic Asparagus

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Asparagus with toasted garlic — SO DELICIOUS!

SO EASY!  LETS DO THIS!!

This is quite possibly my favorite side dish to make. It’s simple, quick, delicious, and requires just one pan. The asparagus is cooked in water first, the garlic is toasted next, then they are combined. The toasted garlic takes on a delicious nutty flavor that seeps into the olive oil and coats the asparagus and makes a heavenly combination.

If you’ve never prepared asparagus before, then this is the recipe you should try for the first time. There are no measurements, no cooking times or temperatures, no rights or wrongs. It’s all done by feel, and I’ll walk you through it.

First, I want to show you what pan I use so you can find one similar to it. I trim my asparagus by cutting the bottom parts off because they are tough and woody. I like them to be tender and yummy. Then, they all fit nicely in my 10″ Stainless Steel, Copper Bottom pan. It doesn’t have to be exact, it doesn’t have to be stainless, it doesn’t have to have copper. But it does need to be large enough to fit your asparagus, and it does have to have high sides like a family -style pan… so take a good look at my pan, and then go digging in your cabinets to see if you can find one that works. Ready, set … GO!!

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Did you find a pan that works?

Ok. Once you find your pan, and you’ve trimmed about 2-3″ of the hard woody part of the asparagus off (the bottom part), fill the pan with water and bring it to a boil. Place the asparagus in the boiling water and cook the asparagus until “fork-tender,” which means your fork goes into the asparagus easily but with a bit of resistance. You do NOT want the asparagus to be mushy. Drain the asparagus. Place the pan back on the stove over medium-high heat. Add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and three fat garlic gloves that have been finely minced. Stir the garlic around until golden. Add the asparagus and toss the asparagus, garlic and olive oil around to coat the asparagus. Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter and sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve and enjoy! Easy peasy!

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This picture shows me adding the asparagus on top of the toasted garlic right before I toss it all together.

 

Water Goblets For Entertaining

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Here is post number one on my series of Entertaining 101: Stocking Up for Guests. I hope you take notes on how to fill your cabinets with versatile and useful items that you will be able to reach for when ever you have a planned party or a surprise guest pop in. Whether you are a seasoned hostess, a newly wed, a bride to be, or a person that wants to step out of their comfort zone and start entertaining… I hope this series helps you discover A Mind Set For Entertaining!

One of the best investments you can make is in a set of sturdy glass water goblets. Yes! Glass! Don’t be afraid to put out glass goblets when your guests come over. Why put out plastic? Plastic is wasteful, and can get costly. Glass is beautiful, sturdy, and a good, heavy glass goblet with a cold, delicious drink in it feels good in the hand!’

Besides, you can use them over and over and over again, and not just for water.  I serve lemonade, tea, soft drinks, or any other drink you can imagine in them. They are lovely for sangria, beer, and generous margaritas. I’ve even served a generous portion of dessert in them. I use them for buffets, casual meals, Superbowl celebrations, cookouts, Bible studies, or any gathering where I have a crowd coming over.

They can be dressed up in the dining room, or dressed down on the picnic table with a beverage dispenser and a cooler of ice next to them. If you purchase a sturdy set, they can be tossed in the dish washer, and placed back in the box for storage until your next party. Trust me. I DO NOT hand wash them. No delicate crystal here! I highly recommend you purchase all clear goblets, because they will go with any color dishes, napkins and table cloths you decide to use — you won’t be limited.

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My mom always drilled in my head to have a place for everything, and put everything in its place. When you take care of your things, they last longer, and she is right!  As you can see … my boxes look yellowed, but I have kept my glasses in their original boxes because they are packaged in sturdy cardboard, and they are divided nicely and well protected.

I purchased my two sets of 8 all clear goblets from Wal-Mart about 15 years ago, and I’ve only broken one in all that time. I paid $12.99 for one set of 8, and I got two boxes of them. Of course, the same set has gone up to $37.99 now, but that’s still under $5.00 per goblet.

Amazon.com has a beautiful set of water goblets by Libbey, 12 16-1/4 ounce goblets for51r5crqhaAL._SL1170_ $30.40 Prime (as of the date of this post – see or click on single glass to right) and they look sturdy and lovely. I might even bump my set up by another 12… you see … they don’t all need to match perfectly! That’s the beauty of clear goblets.

If you are great at scouring the dollar stores, you can find beautiful water goblets for $1.00 each. I recommend you purchase at least 12 goblets, and if you’re getting them at the dollar store, get them at the same time, because sometimes, they come and go quickly. You can even find restaurant and hotel buyouts on eBay for great prices!! My only suggestion with eBay is that you get all clear glasses, and make sure you’re getting sturdy stems (as opposed to very thin stems, which break easily).

Brides to be… Put them on your registry! Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, because you just might get it! Tip: chosing more expensive brands for your registry don’t always mean better quality or durability. Remember: if you want your friends and family to purchase your items, be sure to make a diverse selection of items and prices on your registry! Make the selections do-able.

This recipe of Sparkling Pineapple Punch reminds me of a drink they have in Peru which I think you will enjoy. It looks very pretty served over ice in the glass water goblets. And, wherever you decide to purchase your goblets, you won’t regret it. You will find yourself using them over and over again as they are so versatile and neutral, and will save you money time and time again. They truly are an investment worth making! And that’s… According To Giselle!

Sparkling Pineapple Punch

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 cinnamon sticks, about 3″ long
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1 can (46 ounces) pineapple juice
  • 1-1/2 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 12-ounce can ginger ale, chilled (more if desired)
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and cool to room temperature.
  2. Pour into a large pitcher; stir in juices. Refrigerate until chilled. Just before serving, stir in ginger ale. Serve over ice.

A Quick Side

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I love potatoes. There. I said it. Out loud. Sort of….

And I have a quick side dish for all potato lovers that are frantic to get dinner on the table quickly before the screaming crazies take over the kitchen and begin eating all the cookies, chips and other delicious things you try to hide from them. Then it won’t matter how yummy that chicken is that’s been roasting in the oven, because the bellies will be full of junk.

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So, all you’ll need is a 28-ounce bag of baby potatoes, three cloves of garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, ready-set-go…

  1. Place the baby potatoes in a microwave safe container, add 1/4 cup water, cover with saran wrap and microwave for 8 minutes.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, mince garlic. Prep the rest of your meal for serving because the rest will go very quickly.
  3. When potatoes are done, strain them and place them on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle some olive oil on them and roll them around with the minced garlic.
  4. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and pop them on the top shelf of the oven and broil for 5-7 minutes until garlic is crispy. Pull them out of the oven and sprinkle with parm cheese. Broil 2-3 more minutes and SERVE with your meal.

That’s ALL! Sometimes, you can even find them in microwaveable bags, which makes the whole process easier. BOOM! You are the superhero mamma. Or Pappa… because pappas cook too, although according to my experience, they are MUCH MORE MESSIER than mammas and leave a long, LOOOONG trail of cleaning upstuffs… What? Huh? Nothing to see here. Move along, move along…

Really, it took me longer to type this up than it will actually take to make the potatoes! Here are some yummy variations — keep the garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper, and add the following:

  • Before broiling, sprinkle with smoked paprika, chili powder and cumin, toss well (do not us parm cheese). Broil for 5 minutes and serve.
  • After broiling, sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar, toss well (do not us parm cheese) and serve.
  • After broiling, sprinkle with cayenne pepper, diced jalapeno and shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or a smoked cheese), toss well and serve.
  • After broiling, sprinkle with Old Bay, a little bit of Malt Vinegar, toss well and serve.
  • After broiling, toss with 1/4 cup pesto and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and serve.

Four Bean Salad

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I made this delicious, classic four bean salad as a quick side last night, and it was a great reminder of summer cookouts and picnics to come! It’s one of my husband’s favorites. If you aren’t much of a cook, and you were asked to bring a side dish for Easter dinner, or for any dinner in the future, trust me… you should give this one a try. It’s easy, it’s quick to throw together, and after just an hour in the fridge (or travel time), it will be delicious. Even better the next day!IMG_2326

A few tips:

  • If you aren’t a wiz with the knife, and don’t like chopping, try using a chopper like the Pampered Chef Food Chopper, the Oxo Chopper, or any other chopper you feel more comfortable with. But let’s keep working on those chopping skills!
  • I prefer the onions and celery to be diced finely in this recipe. It’s not the star in the salad, but it is necessary to add a fresh and needed crunch.
  • If you soak the red onion in water for 5-10 minutes and drain, it will remove some of its harshness.
  • If you want to take the salad over the top, add some freshly chopped cilantro or parsley after you add the dressing and toss it all together.
  • Use a large bowl to mix the beans, onions, celery and dressing together, then place everything into a nice serving bowl.
  • I prefer to drain and rinse all the beans with cool water to wash out the canned flavor.

Four Bean Salad

  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can green beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can light red or pink kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can waxed beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 celery stalks, washed, trimmed and chopped fine
  • 4 spring onions, rinsed and chopped fine
  • 1/4 red onion, diced finely
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

In a jar with a lid, combine the vinegar, sugar, oil, salt and pepper. Close lid and shake well.

Combine everything in a bowl, mixing well. Transfer to serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour to over night so beans can absorb flavors.

Tropical Kabobs

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We’re having a heat wave in March… a teaser for a wonderful spring, and I have a fun recipe for the warm weekend coming up. I was given this odd bottle of Coconut Pineapple juice, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. It’s very thick, almost entirely too thick to drink on its own. It will make a nice mocktail, and a great cocktail, but I thought I’d try it in my Tropical Kabobs. Truth be told, I think it weighed down the flavor, muddying it up and making it mushier than it should have been. I would not use it again. I included it in one of the pictures, but not all the ingredients are in that picture, and I’m confident in the intelligence of the cook to remember to NOT include it in the recipe. That’s how much I did not like it. That’s saying a lot because there isn’t much I don’t like. Moving on…

IMG_2030Aren’t those kabobs lovely?? These pictures look upside-downish, but they aren’t — just funky looking. I love grilled pineapple, and to include it in a kabob is genius in my opinion. Not in my husband’s opinion, but no one asked for his. Today, he was just the operator of the grill, and since I love him so much, I made his kabobs without pineapple. He’s a pineapple sissy.

IMG_2025This is a small recipe, perfect for four adults, or for two with enough for lunch the next day. I love that this recipe combines vegetables and fresh fruit along with a protein, keeping this meal lean and healthy. It does have a few steps, but it’s worth it, and these days, everyone likes to cook, so have your spouse, child or a friend help chop, cut and dice. Make it a fun afternoon!

IMG_1950A few tips:

  1. You only need three chicken breasts, so if you have a package with more, freeze the remainder in either a ziploc baggie, or wrap them individually in plastic wrap so you can pull them out as you need them.
  2. This is a “Small Family” recipe, but you can easily double or triple it for if you are entertaining or making it for a larger family.
  3. Be sure to place about 8 bamboo skewers in water so your meal doesn’t go up in flames. It really won’t but don’t risk it!
  4. I recommend you serve this with Jasmine Rice. I set aside a few pieces of onion, peppers and pineapple and diced them very small. When my rice was finished cooking, I added the small diced veg/fruit, some toasted sesame seeds, and some of the reserved marinade to spike it up a notch.
  5. If you can, you’ll want to get your grill up to 400 degrees before you put the kabobs on, and use an instant read thermometer to check your chicken. It should be at 165 degrees in order to safely feed it to your hungry piranhas.

Additional Pictures: [CLICK HERE]

Tropical Kabobs

  • Servings: 4 Adults
  • Time: 2 hours 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Kabobs:

  • 3 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 6 chicken tenderloins) cubed
  • 1 green pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cubed
  • 1 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cubed
  • 1/4-1/2 red onion (depending on your taste), cubed
  • 3/4 FRESH golden pineapple, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste

Marinade:

  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice (if possible, use the fresh juice from the cut pineapple)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar

Whisk all Marinade ingredients together. Place cubed chicken in a gallon-sized zip loc bag. Pour 3/4 of the marinade into the bag, move the chicken around to coat completely, and seal the bag. Marinade the chicken for two hours, but no more than four (the chicken will get mushy from the enzymes in the pineapple juice). While your chicken is marinating, dice your vegetables, coat with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt and freshly cracked pepper. Set in the refrigerator until ready to grill. Place your skewers in water.

When ready to grill, heat your grill to about 400 degrees. (while the grill is heating, make your Jasmine Rice!) Drain your skewers and begin threading your veggies, pineapple and chicken. Grill for 8 minutes, brush with the reserved marinade, and turn. Brush the other side with the reserved marinade and grill for another 8 minutes. Take the temperature reading of the chicken with an instant read thermometer. It should read no less than 165 degrees. Serve over your spiked Jasmine Rice.

 

 

A Little Chicken

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I’m still trying to learn WordPress. It’s daunting, to say the least. Frustrating at the most. Photos, in particular, are the most frustrating to me. GRRRR! And while I learn, I still have to eat, right? So my husband grilled a whole chicken for us. He loves to grill, smoke, and cook anything that fits on his grill. Anything. I try to be the voice of reason, but at times, the chunks of wood that he uses as fuel on his grill can tend to call him much louder than I do.IMG_1702

In any case, we made a simple bird with simple ingredients that can be made on any type of grill, if given just a bit of patience… but over hard lump charcoal with apple wood chunks to give it some delicious smoke is just the right combination for this little chicken.

It takes two sets of hands, so call your honey over to help out, because what’s more romantic than moving chicken skin around and smearing olive oil and spices around on raw chicken with the one you love? Nothing! That’s what I say! Well… not really, but LETS DO THIS! Have your loved one go out and light that grill. You want it to reach 350 degrees when you’re ready to put your chicken on.

Start with a plump happy chicken. Free your chicken from the plastic wrapping. Remove the heart and all the other inner things and toss them in the trash (unless you want to save them for something special — you are the boss of your chicken). Wash her well with cool water, and pat her dry with paper towels and trim her from any loose hanging yucky fatty stuff. Transfer your chicken to a safe working space (like a cutting board or a large platter). Let her rest while we mix our BBQ spices together.

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We keep an empty bottle with a shaker top on hand for occasions just like these — mixing our own blends and sprinkling them onto our own meats — because thats how we roll. Okay — equal parts of the following (approximately 1 tablespoon of each) garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder (preferably salt free), seasoned salt, smoked paprika. We learned that surprisingly, chili powders are not just chilis that are ground, but sometimes they also have blends of other spices, as well as salt. We like to control our salt, or in this case, use seasoned salt, because it has a nice blend of things like ground celery seed, marjoram, oregano, paprika, sugar, thyme, turmeric, pepper, etc. And, be sure it contains NO MSG.

Now comes the fun part. Gently slide your fingers under the breast skin and slide it off the breast without tearing it (but it probably will). Have the helper carefully pour some olive oil under the skin on both sides and then shake some of the blended seasonings under the skin. The one with the chicken fingers gets to rub the seasonings into the meat. Repeat under the legs, and the bottom part of the chicken. Then, making sure the skin is covering the breast meat, gently massage the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle it completely with the seasonings and rub her down well. You can use tooth picks to make sure all the skin is pinned back in place.

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Checking to make sure your grill is ready to roll (350 degrees), place your chicken in the middle of the grill. If you have heat deflectors, you’ll want to use them so that your chicken doesn’t become a crispy critter on the bottom. If not, then you’ll want to use indirect heat. The chicken will take about 2-3 hours to roast. You’ll want to use an instant read thermometer on your chicken to check in the leg/thigh area. When it reaches 165 degrees, it’s done. Pull it off the grill, place it on a platter and cover it with foil, letting it rest for about 30 minutes.

Once it’s rested, you can serve it any way you desire. Sliced, shredded, with barbecue sauce, plain, on bread, as a chicken salad, with sides, or pulled right of the bone and popped right into your mouth. She’s going to taste delicious either way, so enjoy your meal.

Additional Pictures: [CLICK HERE]

And that’s a little chicken… According to Giselle, and her husband Dan!!