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Posts tagged “Blue cheese

Black Grape, Walnut, & Blue Cheese Salad

with Vanilla Ginger Yogurt Dressing

Black Grape, Walnut & Blue Cheese Salad with Vanilla Ginger Yogurt Dressing

I found some gorgeous big, juicy, crunchy black grapes at the grocery store the other day. I am not really much of a grape lover (unless it’s WINE!), but my kids like them, so I decided to bring some black grapes home for the teenagers. But my kids didn’t eat them. I even put some in a little container for my daughter for a before-dance snack, but she didn’t touch them. I kept reminding my son that they were there … no luck.

So it seems like I’m stuck eating the grapes. I tried to think of a way to eat them that I would actually enjoy and the first thing that came to mind is a salad. I thought if I added some crunchy walnuts and blue cheese, that would probably make them palateable. And you know what? It worked! I think I may actually start LIKING grapes …

Black Grape, Walnut & Blue Cheese Salad with Vanilla Ginger Yogurt Dressing

Black Grape, Walnut & Blue Cheese Salad with Vanilla Ginger Yogurt Dressing

Red or green grapes would work nicely in this salad too. Red ones would add more color, too!

  • Mixed greens
  • Black grapes, sliced or halved
  • Walnuts, toasted
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Vanilla Ginger Yogurt dressing (recipe below)

Prepare the dressing and set aside. Fill your salad bowl most of the way with mixed greens. Add a generous amount of grapes and toss to mix. Top with some toasted walnuts and blue cheese crumbles and drizzle with the Vanilla Ginger Yogurt Dressing.

Black Grape, Walnut & Blue Cheese Salad with Vanilla Ginger Yogurt Dressing

Vanilla Ginger Yogurt Dressing

  • 1/3 cup vanilla lowfat yogurt
  • 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root
  • milk or rosewater, to thin

In a small bowl, mix the vanilla yogurt with the grated ginger root. Add milk or rosewater as needed (I used a little of each) to thin out the yogurt to the right consistency to drizzle properly.

This recipe was shared at Fit & Fabulous FridaysScrumptious SundayAll my Bloggy FriendsTuesday Talent Show, Tasty Tuesday, Newlyweds Recipe Linky, Show & Share Wednesday and Lifeologia’s Birthday Party Potluck.


Apricot Chicken Salad on Wild Greens

with Blue Cheese, Cinnamon Pecans, and a Honey Lemon Ginger White Wine Vinaigrette

Apricot Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese & Cinnamon Pecans

It was a “make do with what you’ve got” kinda lunch day. I thought I would have a salad, but I didn’t have enough greens left to fill my bowl.

So I went scrounging in my yard for greens. My spinach is still too tiny to pick, so I came in with a bunch of dandelion greens and a couple flowers as well. I know, these common yellow flowers are not generally well loved. Most people don’t want them in their yard. But they do have a lot of health benefits, they cost nothing and they’re really quite tasty and beautiful. The only problem is the greens do tend to get bitter.

However, bitter greens in a salad are really lovely if you pair them with something sweet. So I went looking for something sweet. No berries left, but I did have some dried apricots and cinnamon pecans. I threw in some chopped chicken and tangy blue cheese and I had quite a nice, well rounded, tasty salad.

If you are averse to using dandelions in your salad, skip the dandelions and use different greens. Arugula mixed with some fresh spinach would be nice.

Apricot Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese & Cinnamon Pecans

Apricot Chicken Salad on Wild Greens with Blue Cheese & Cinnamon Pecans

  • Mixed greens (I used spinach and dandelion greens)
  • Cooked chicken (leftover chicken or natural chicken nuggets), chopped … I think this salad would be incredible with some apricot-glazed chicken … as you can see, I used the chicken nuggets.
  • Blue cheese crumbles (just a few)
  • Fresh or Dried apricots, chopped
  • Cinnamon pecans (recipe here)
  • Snipped green onion
  • Dandelion flower petals (optional … only use these if you have a safe, chemical-free source of dandelions)

Fill your salad bowl most of the way with greens. Sprinkle the salad with chopped chicken, blue cheese crumbles, apricots, pecans, green onion and flower petals. Drizzle with Honey Lemon Ginger White Wine Vinaigrette.

Honey Lemon Ginger White Wine Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped fine
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix everything except the olive oil together in a bowl till well mixed. While whisking, slowly pour the olive oil into the dressing in a small stream. Keep whisking until the olive oil is well mixed into the dressing. Refrigerate any leftover dressing in an airtight container.

Wild Apricot Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese & Cinnamon Pecans

This recipe was shared at Tastetastic Thursdays and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Strawberry Chrysanthemum Salad

with Blue Cheese, Cinnamon Pecans and Mixed Berry Vinaigrette

Strawberry Chrysanthemum Salad with Blue Cheese & Cinnamon Pecans

I’m fascinated with edible flowers right now …  last week I found a list of 42 edible flowers … and realized I had another edible flower literally on my front doorstep.

My mom brought me a mum from her garden. A confused mum. Chrysanthemums are supposed to flower in the fall, but this one was in full bloom already. Mom said just plant it and pull off the blossoms and it should bloom again in the fall. I didn’t have the heart to pull the blossoms off … it looked so pretty. So I left it in the crumpled metal bucket mom brought it in and set it on my doorstep.

And now I’m so glad I did. Because I LOVE the taste of these flowers! My daughter tasted them too and she loved the taste as well. Said they would be great in a salad. Which made me laugh because that is EXACTLY what I thought.

My white mum flower petals have a floral herb-y taste to them, with a hint of bitterness and slight peppery bite. (Mums come in a wide variety of colors and according to treehugger the flavors vary from peppery to pungent.) Which makes a perfect pairing for a berry salad.

Warnings: You should eat only the petals of chrysanthemum flowers.  Also, be careful to choose a flower plant that hasn’t been sprayed or treated with any strange chemicals (or better yet, grow your own!)

Strawberry Chrysanthemum Salad with Blue Cheese & Cinnamon Pecans

Strawberry Chrysanthemum Salad

with Blue Cheese, Cinnamon Pecans & Mixed Berry Vinaigrette

  • Pecan pieces
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Mixed greens and/or fresh spinach leaves
  • Strawberries
  • Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • Chrysanthemum flowers that are free of pesticides and herbicides
  • Berry Vinaigrette (recipe here)

Mix some powdered sugar and cinnamon in a bowl till you have a good-tasting mix. Put the nuts in the powdered sugar and toss to coat them. Pour through a colander or sifter to separate the nuts from the powdered sugar mixture. Put the sugared nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 5 minutes. The sugar sorts of melts onto the toasted nuts.

Now it’s time to make the salad! Fill your plate or salad bowl mostly with greens, top with sliced strawberries, then a sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles, then take your Chrysanthemum flowers and pull off the petals and sprinkle them all over the salad.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon pecans and drizzle with berry vinaigrette.

Strawberry Chrysanthemum Salad with Blue Cheese & Cinnamon Pecans

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This recipe was also shared at Totally Tasty Tuesdays and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Ham, Avocado, & Blue Cheese Salad

with Toasted Pinons and Avocado Ranch Dressing

Ham, Avocado & Blue Cheese Salad with Toasted Pinons

Do you still have ham left over from Easter dinner? I do … a LOT of it. Dad gave me more than I really thought I could handle. And I talked him into giving me one of the smaller ham bones. So soon there will be soup!

But not today. Today is salad day. I love a good salad. And what better way to use up leftover ham than to toss it in a salad, right? … Okay, there are tons of other great ways to use ham, but this is one of the best options, in my humble opinion.

Ham, Avocado & Blue Cheese Salad with Toasted Pinons

Ham, Avocado & Blue Cheese Salad

on Mixed Greens with Toasted Pinons and Avocado Ranch Dressing

  • Mixed organic greens
  • Cooked ham, sliced or diced or just torn into chunks
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Avocado slices
  • Pine nuts (pinons), toasted
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Avocado ranch salad dressing (recipe here)

Directions:

  1. Make the salad dressing. Go here for the recipe.
  2. Make a nice big bed of greens on your salad plate or bowl.
  3. Toast the pine nuts in a 300 degree oven for about 5 minutes (watch them closely!) or until they just start to turn brown. Just be careful to watch them carefully so they won’t burn. If you have a toaster oven that toasts nicely without burning things (unlike mine), you can put the nuts on a toaster oven pan in your toaster oven and set it on toast (medium setting) and they will be perfectly brown. Or you can toast them in a skillet pan over medium heat.
  4. Sprinkle the ham, red onion, avocado, pinons and blue cheese crumbles over your beautiful bed of greens.
  5. Drizzle with avocado ranch dressing. If you happen to have a wild violet or a viola, invite it to sit on top of the salad to make a pretty garnish. Then chow down and feel how much your body (and your taste buds) love you.

Ham, Avocado & Blue Cheese Salad with Toasted Pinons

This recipe was shared at Newlyweds Recipe LinkyMelt in your Mouth Mondays and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Salmon, Havarti, Blue Cheese & Veggie Omelet

Salmon, Havarti, Blue Cheese & Spring Vegetable Omelet

I still had some salmon in my fridge from the other night when I made it for my daughter (I made extra just for times like this … salmon is such a fun fish to “play” with!) and a bit of Havarti and blue cheese, some cucumber, red onion, tomato, and dill … sounds like a fantastic omelet … It was.

You see, Wednesday night was yogilates night. It’s a tough workout. Usually after yoga on Wednesdays, we go out for wine. I never eat after that … I just roll into bed. So I tend to wake up on Thursday mornings just STARVING … time for an omelet.

Salmon, Havarti, Blue Cheese & Spring Vegetable Omelet

Salmon, Havarti, Blue Cheese & Spring Vegetable Omelet

Blue Cheese Dilled Salmon Spread:

  • 1 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon or so of blue cheese
  • A sprig of fresh dill, snipped
  • Garlic scapes, snipped … or a bit of fresh garlic, chopped
  • A bit of finely chopped onion … or green onion
  • A small fillet of salmon, grilled or smoked

Omelet:

  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • Dabs of the Blue Cheese Dilled Salmon Spread
  • Chopped red onion
  • Chopped tomato
  • Chopped cucumber
  • Snipped dill
  • Shredded Havarti cheese
  • Flakes of cooked or smoked salmon
  • Tomato slices and sprigs of dill for garnish and toasted french bread

Directions:

  1. Mix up the Blue Cheese Dilled Salmon Spread by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl. This will make more than enough for an omelet, so use the rest for salmon cucumber toasts or serve it as a spread with crackers. It’s lovely that way.
  2. Prepare your chopped vegetables and shred the cheese.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, egg white, and 1 tablespoon of water till fluffy. (Use water to keep the eggs moist without sticking to the pan.) Season with salt and freshly ground pepper (and/or my favorite: Red Robin seasoning).
  4. Heat a skillet or omelet pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Arrange your omelet toppings close by so you can work quickly once you start cooking.
  5. When the pan is hot, add the egg to the pan, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan, then quickly sprinkle with dabs of the salmon spread, the chopped vegetables, dill, salmon, and Havarti cheese. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for a few minutes or until the cheese is melted and the egg is cooked. The omelet should be just lightly browned on the bottom.
  6. With a spatula, carefully fold over one side of the omelet onto the other, then slide it out of the pan onto a serving plate.

Salmon, Havarti, Blue Cheese & Spring Vegetable Omelet

This recipe was shared at Weekend Potluck, the Egg Blog Hop and Talent Show Tuesday.


Smoky Blue Cheese & Basil Stuffed Mushrooms

Smoky Blue Cheese & Basil Stuffed Mushrooms

Mushrooms are curious things. Some mushrooms are healthy and delicious and nutritious … and then other mushrooms are quite dangerous.

I have gone mushroom hunting several times. The little shrooms can be quite elusive, and then suddenly you’ll discover a whole field of them. Or not. It’s hard to tell with mushrooms. If you’re going to go hunting them in the wild, though, make sure only to pick the ones you KNOW are safe to eat. I’ve hunted morels, chanterelles, shaggy manes, and a few other stragglers. Morels are by far my favorite. There is nothing like them in the whole world. They are just exquisite.

These aren’t morels or anything I found growing wild. Just some huge mushrooms I saw at the grocery store that were screaming to be taken home and stuffed. They sat neglected in my vegetable drawer for a week, waiting for me to attend to them, pulling at my consciousness with little nags telling me they’re not going to wait forever. Sorry I kept you waiting so long, dear mushrooms. Here, have a nice cheesey-licious stuffing. And some basil.

Smoky Blue Cheese & Basil Stuffed Mushrooms

First you must make this funky cheese mixture. I used this same cheese filling in my Pepperoni Pull Apart Rolls.

Smoky Basil Cheese filling:

  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese
  • 1/2 cup Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • A small handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)

Mix the ingredients up in a bowl. I know, it makes more than you’ll need for these mushrooms. Use it on toast or in a sandwich, or toss it into the cheese mixture for a lasagna or some stuffed pull apart rolls. It’s really tasty … I know you’ll find SOMETHING to do with it.

Smoky Blue Cheese & Basil Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 8 big mushrooms
  • 4 small cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup red onion, peeled
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons blue cheese
  • 2/3 cup smoky basil cheese filling
  • Fresh sprigs of basil, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Carefully pull the stems out of the mushrooms and chop the stems and the garlic and onion into little bits.
  3. Spray a pan with cooking spray and sautee the onion, garlic, and mushroom stems briefly over medium high heat, then add the wine and cook until the wine has mostly evaporated.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix the sauteed vegies with the breadcrumbs, blue cheese, and smoky basil cheese filling.
  5. Stuff the mushroom caps with the cheesy crumb mixture. You can pile it on there a bit.
  6. Set the stuffed mushrooms on a baking pan and pour 1/4 cup white wine plus 1/4 cup water in the bottom of the pan.
  7. Bake the mushrooms at 350 for 15 – 25 minutes or until they are nice and hot all the way through.
  8. Garnish with basil leaves. You may have to use a toothpick to make a little hole in the stuffing to stick in the basil stems. (I did.) Serve them while they’re hot. You can make them ahead of time, store them in the fridge in a covered container, then pop them in the oven just before serving time if you like. You’d have to bake them a little longer, but not too much.

Smoky Blue Cheese & Basil Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe was shared at Weekend Potluck.


Blues n Beef Salad with Pear & Pomegranate

And a kickin’ blue cheese yogurt dressing

Blues n Beef Salad with Pear & Pomegranate

This was a salad-scape I threw together on Friday for lunch. I had some steak from a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich I bought that was way too big for me, so I was looking for things to go with the extra meat I pilfered from the leftover sandwich. Blue cheese, definitely, and mushrooms and onions … oh and some toasted nuts for crunch. A spicy blue cheese dressing, yes. But then it needed a little something sweet and juicy to counterpoint all the intense meat and cheese flavors. I had some of the pear and pomegranate seeds left from the pear crostini — that was just the thing.

Make the dressing first.

Kickin Blue Cheese Yogurt Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons blue cheese crumbles

Mix all ingredients together and let sit to blend the flavors while you prepare the salad.

Blues n Beef Salad with Pear & Pomegranate Seeds

Blues n Beef Salad with Pear & Pomegranate Seeds

  • Mixed greens
  • Steak or Roast beef, thinly sliced and warm
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Sliced red onions
  • Toasted walnuts
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Hunks of ripe red pear
  • Pomegranate seeds

Fill the bowl 3/4 full of greens. Top with the rest of the ingredients as you like. Drizzle with the dressing and enjoy.

Blues n Beef Salad with Pear & Pomegranate

This recipe was shared at Talent Show TuesdayTotally Tasty Tuesdays, and Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


Pan Seared Basil Mushroom Bruschetta with Rosemary Cream

Pan Seared Basil Mushroom Bruschetta with Blue Cheese Rosemary Cream

I am obsessed with little toasts. They are just so beautiful and tasty … just look at these gorgeous little things! I simultaneously want to gobble them up or just sit and gaze at them forever. I feel so torn …

Pan Seared Basil Mushroom Bruschetta with Blue Cheese Rosemary Cream

The Realistic Nutritionist started this obsession when she posted her beautiful pictures of Pan Seared Bruschetta … I just longed to make them from the moment I saw them … and the sad thing was she couldn’t even taste the pretty little toasts because she was sick. I hope she makes them again because while they are lovely to gaze at, they are even better to taste.

Pan Seared Basil Mushroom Bruschetta with Blue Cheese Rosemary Cream

Are you tempted yet?

Pan Seared Basil Mushroom Bruschetta with Rosemary Cream

Adapted from the Realistic Nutritionist. This recipe doesn’t make a lot, so if you are making these for a large party, you want to double or triple the batch. It was just about the right size for a lunch for little me.

  • 8 slices of french bread (whole wheat preferably)
  • Rosemary cream cheese (recipe below)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • About 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • a small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of finely chopped mushrooms
  • Several basil leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup tomato, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper & sea salt to taste
  • To garnish: toasted almonds and basil flowers and/or leaves

Directions:

  1. Mix up the rosemary cream and set aside.
  2. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium high heat.
  3. Add onions, garlic, rosemary and mushrooms and cook about 2 -3 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and cook until vegetables are soft, about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and add spices, salt, pepper and basil. Stir until just mixed.
  5. Toast the bread lightly, then spread with rosemary cream. Place the little toasts on a baking sheet and sprinkle a bit of mozzarella on top of each toast. Bake or broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  6. Top each toast with a scoop of the mushroom/tomato mixture, then sprinkle with toasted almonds and basil flowers. Serve immediately.

Pan Seared Basil Mushroom Bruschetta with Blue Cheese Rosemary Cream

Once I started eating them, I inhaled them. I should have slowed down and savored them, but I lost all control.

Rosemary Cream

  • 3 ounces of light cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons blue cheese (optional … for those that like blue cheese! I do, but I think the flavor would be a little too intense for some)
  • 1 small sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Cream together ingredients until fully blended.

This recipe was shared at Fit & Fabulous FridaysFabulous Friday, Midnight Maniac Meatless Monday, Talent Show Tuesday, Trick or Treat Tuesdays, and Totally Tasty Tuesdays.


Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts & Pomegranate

and three cheeses: Gouda, Blue, and Cream Cheese

Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts, Pomegranates & Three Cheeses

I love the word “crostini” … it sounds so fancy. Like you are at a posh dinner party where everyone is wearing tuxedos or dinner gowns with long white gloves, and sipping champagne. It’s sophisticated.

I have been working on this crostini for days, playing the name over and over in my head, thinking forward to the time when I will have my house in order enough to have a REAL party. Last night I made this crostini for the 2nd time, trying to perfect this recipe, and my daughter asked me what I was making. When I said “crostini”, she asked “what’s that?” … and basically my answer was “it’s a fancy little toast.”

You see, when you add some lovely fruit and funky cheeses and vinegar and toasted walnuts, well, then you have transported toast way beyond your simple breakfast or garlic toast. It is simply sublime. It’s party-worthy. It’s get-all-dressed-up-and-get-the-good-dishes-and-real-napkins-out worthy.

Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts, Pomegranates & Three Cheeses

Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts, Pomegranate Seeds, & Three Cheeses

I didn’t include amounts on most of the ingredients, because it depends on how many you want to make. I was making them as a snack for myself, so I didn’t need very much, but if you’re making them for a party, well, then, you’re going to need more toast, and pear, and cheese and stuff …

  • 3 oz. light cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons loose blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • Thinly sliced crusty french bread or baguette, toasted
  • Habanero pepper jelly (or if you don’t like hot peppers, try another jam or jelly)
  • Vinaigrette salad dressing (I used my maple cranberry vinaigrette from this post, but I think just about any vinaigrette would work)
  • If you like: Paper-thin sliced prosciutto (I tried it both with and without prosciutto and honestly, I like it both ways)
  • Fresh pear slices
  • Slices of gouda cheese
  • Toasted walnuts
  • Pomegranate seeds

Directions:

  1. First, mix the cream cheese, blue cheese crumbles, and rosemary in a small bowl. Set aside while you prepare the other things.
  2. Toast the bread and then spread it with a very thin layer of pepper jelly, then brush the little toasts with a low-fat vinaigrette salad dressing — or if you prefer, just a balsamic (or your favorite flavor of) vinegar.
  3. Spread a layer of the cream cheese mixture over the jelly. It will be a little messy, but it’s ok.
  4. Set the little toasts on a baking sheet.
  5. If you are using proscuitto, add a thin slice of that.
  6. Now arrange pear slices on top to cover the little toasts, then some slices of gouda cheese.
  7. Bake or broil the toasts until the cheese is melted and a little bubbly.
  8. Immediately top with the walnuts and pomegranate seeds, pressing them into the melted cheese to help the little things to stick to the top of the crostini.
  9. Serve immediately, garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary and extra pomegranate seeds and a nice glass of wine.

Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts, Pomegranate, and Three Cheeses

By the way, my daughter calls the pomegranate seeds her “beauty seeds” … and they are terrifically good for you, so I am sure they make you beautiful inside and out … and besides they look beautiful, so make sure to eat plenty of them with your crostini.

This recipe was shared with Wonka WednesdaysNewlyweds Recipe LinkyMidweek Fiesta, Fabulous Friday and Foodie Friday.


Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with dried cranberries, apricots, mixed cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranates are so beautiful. I’ve been entranced with them since I studied Greek mythology way back in junior high school.

Then when we lived in California, our neighbors had a pomegranate tree … one long branch of the tree stretched into our yard and that one branch always gave us plenty of pomegranates. Not that it really mattered, because the neighbors let us go into their yard and pick pomegranates whenever we wanted. My kids used to sell pomegranates like some kids sell lemonade. The neighbors loved it.

When you open up a pomegranate, it is full of all these gorgeous little jewels; it looks like a treasure chest to me. And the taste of the little jewels when you bite into one … oh my.

If you want to make this salad, you will first need to make the Cranberry Raspberry Vinegar, and that takes about a week … just giving you fair warning. You could do some clever substitutions, perhaps, but the jewel-toned vinegar with the little pomegranate jewels in the salad is really quite nice.

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Mixed Cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

with Dried Cranberries, Apricots and Mixed Cheeses

  • Organic Herb Mix (or mixed greens)
  • Pomegranate Seeds
  • Shards of Parmesan Cheese (cut very thin slices off the edge of a hunk of parmesan)
  • Toasted Walnuts, chopped roughly
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Chopped dried Apricots
  • Blue cheese crumbles

First make the dressing and let it set to mix the flavors while you prepare the salad.

Fill the salad bowl 3/4 full with the organic herb mix, and sprinkle with remaining ingredients as you please. Drizzle with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette.

Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

  • 3/4 cup cranberry raspberry vinegar (recipe here)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon, Spicy Brown or other fancy mustard (I used garlic peppercorn mustard)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard seed
  • A couple of basil leaves, a small sprig of rosemary, and several sprigs of fresh dill weed

Mix all ingredients together in a handi chopper and whir until the herbs and garlic are well chopped and everything is mixed well. Refrigerate any of the remaining dressing.

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with dried cranberries, apricots, mixed cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

This recipe was shared at Midnight Maniac Meatless MondaysTotally Tasty Tuesdays, and Full Plate Thursdays.


Basil Watermelon Salad with Chicken, Blue Cheese & Toasted Pecans

and a Tequila Lime vinaigrette

Basil Watermelon Salad with Chicken, Blue Cheese, and Toasted Pecans

I know it’s getting close to Christmas and everyone is baking cookies and such, but if you can find some watermelon (or if you miraculously happen to have a bit sitting about still from the bounty of the summer garden, like me), make this sublime salad and, just for a moment, transport yourself back to warmth, sunshine, swimsuits and flip-flops. Your winter wonderland will be waiting for you when you return.

This salad to me screams California cuisine. When I eat it, I picture myself sitting in a beautiful restaurant with white tablecloths, fresh flowers, real cloth napkins and lots of windows … even a balcony where you can sit outside and feel, hear, smell, gaze at the beauty of the ocean. It deserves to be served at one of those posh, funky California restaurants that serves the most unusual combinations of flavors. Perhaps the view would be something like this …

California Beach

When I first thought of putting these things together in a salad, I was a little scared to try it. Honestly, how can you be scared of a salad? I need not have worried … it was divine. The sweetness of the watermelon, the earthy flavor of the basil, the creamy bite of the blue cheese, the gentle crunch of the pecans, and the crisp greens with the lime and tequila … oh it is heaven.

If you have no watermelon, then just order some yellow watermelon seeds for your garden and stash this recipe away for next summer.

Basil Watermelon Salad with Chicken, Blue Cheese, Toasted Pecans and a Tequila Lime Vinaigrette

Basil Watermelon Salad with Chicken, Blue Cheese, Toasted Pecans and a Tequila Lime Vinaigrette

I made a single-serving salad, but you could easily make a bigger version for a hungry crowd. To me, this is a complete meal all in one bowl.

  • Mixed organic greens
  • A small slice of watermelon, seeded and chopped into small chunks (I used yellow watermelon)
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Fresh basil leaves, chopped (and flowers, if you have them!)
  • 1 chicken patty, cooked and cut into pieces (or leftover chicken of any kind!)
  • Pecans, chopped roughly and toasted

Directions:

  1. Fill the salad bowl 3/4 full with mixed greens.
  2. Top with watermelon, blue cheese, chicken, basil leaves and pecans.
  3. Sprinkle with tequila lime vinaigrette and serve.

Tequila Lime Vinaigrette (from Cooking Light Magazine)

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • Dash of salt

Directions:

  1. Toss all ingredients into a food processor and whir till blended. Or you can just whisk them all together in a bowl, but the food processor will chop up the cilantro really nicely. I used watermelon-infused tequila (made by soaking watermelon cubes in tequila for several  days). Cover and chill until ready to use.

Basil Watermelon Salad with Chicken, Blue Cheese, and Toasted Pecans

This recipe was shared at Recipe of the Week: Healthy/Low Cal Recipes.


Twice Baked Potato Casserole

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

To me, this isn’t really a recipe. I have been fascinated with twice baked potatoes since I started cooking I think, so it’s just second nature to me to take mashed potatoes, mix in some cheese, onion, bell pepper, bacon and bake. You don’t need any special seasonings or spices … just let the onion, bacon, bell pepper and cheese do their magic.

I love to put this mixture back into the potato skins if I have them, but if not, just throw it in a casserole or oven proof bowl and bake till everything is hot and the cheese is god and melted.

It’s so simple and so good. I just had it for lunch and it was oh so warm, comforting, filling, and delicious.

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

If you make it with low-fat mashed potatoes and don’t overdo it on the bacon or cheese, it’s even good for you.

Today I used shredded sharp cheddar and a bit of blue cheese crumbles, chopped red bell pepper, chopped onion, crumbled in a bit of crispy cooked bacon. Mixed it all together, topped with a little more cheese, then baked for about 10 – 15 minutes at 350. Then I topped it with a few snips of fresh chives. I like to use fresh onions and bell pepper for the crunch factor, but if you like your veggies soft, you can sautee them first. Sometimes I add mushrooms too, if I have them, and if the mashed potatoes are dry, a little cottage cheese, light sour cream or buttermilk. Sometimes a little dill is a nice addition.  Play with it to find a combination you like. You really can’t go wrong with this one.

You can make this in individual portions like I did today for lunch in my oven-safe bowl, or in a larger casserole for a crowd. It would be a nice touch to bake in ramekins for holiday meals. Larger dishes will take longer to cook.

Mmm. I’m in heaven.

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

This recipe was shared at Recipe of the Week: Potatoes and Weekend Potluck.


Blue Devil Bacon Jalapeno Poppers

Blue Devil Bacon Jalapeno Poppers

with lowfat Garlicky Basil Buttermilk Ranch Dip (for chasing the vampires away!)

It’s Halloween and FINALLY the last day of October. I am breathing a sigh of relief because I took a challenge to blog about connections through food every day in October. I did it! Perhaps I didn’t do as well talking about connections every day as I would have liked to, but I actually blogged every single day this month. I have made a lot of new friends this month and we’ve shared a lot of recipes, jokes, stories, ideas, and thoughts about food. I feel very close to all my foodie friends.

It was a good month, but honestly I think I cooked a little TOO much. Not all the food that I made got eaten. I had a few recipe failures that I didn’t share, so I had to make something new to blog about. I don’t like to waste food.

In order to make my goal, I started making food, photographing it, and waiting to blog about it until I needed a post on my blog. I discovered I don’t like to blog about something long after I’ve made and eaten it. I want to blog about it in the moment, share it right then. I still have a few things to post that I prepared and photographed, but didn’t get posted yet. I promise you I will post them because they are really good.

But from now on, I am not going to pressure myself to blog every single day.

Blue Devil Bacon Jalapeno Poppers

Here’s a Halloween appetizer you could really enjoy anytime of year. I know they don’t look very scary, but watch out. They definitely have a BITE to them. And the garlicky dip will help fend off vampires.

Blue Devil Bacon Jalapeno Poppers (Baked!)

  • About 15 jalapenos
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white (you can also use eggbeaters or all egg whites)
Cheesy filling:
  • 5 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/3 c. chopped onion
  • 1/3 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. bacon crumbles
Breading: (Note: This is way more breading than you will need for your jalapenos. Use the rest to bread other vegies you have laying around–or cut the breading in half.
  • 1 c. bread crumbs (whole grain bread is fine! I used crumbs from my dad’s whole wheat yogurt bread)
  • 1 c. cheese cracker crumbs (I recommend using healthy, lowfat, whole grain crackers and whirring them in your handi chopper or food processor till finely ground)
  • 1 t. Red Robin Seasoning
  • 1/2 t. onion powder
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder

Directions:

  1. You probably want to make the dip first so it has time for the flavors to blend. So scroll down to the end of this post to whip up the dip.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray.
  3. Cut jalapenos in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and membrane. You  may want to wear gloves to protect your hands, eyes and other body parts from the spicy jalapeno juice.
  4. Combine cheesy filling ingredients in a bowl until well mixed.
  5. Using a spoon or knife, fill the halved jalapenos with the cheesy filling.
  6. In a separate bowl, combine breading ingredients until well mixed.
  7. In another bowl, whisk the eggs & egg white until frothy.
  8. Dip each cheese-filled jalapeno half in the egg, then set it in the breading and cover. I found it worked best when I used my left hand ONLY in the egg bowl and my right hand ONLY to coat the jalapeno with breading.
  9. As you finish them, set each jalapeno on a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. When you’ve finished breading all the jalapenos, spray them with cooking spray.
  10. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until golden. The cheese might ooze out in some cases, that’s quite all right!
  11. Dip and enjoy! (These can be made ahead of time, kept in the fridge until serving time, then re-heated briefly in a 350 degree oven.)

Blue Devil Bacon Jalapeno Poppers

Garlicky Basil Buttermilk Ranch Dip (to scare the Vampires away)

Inspired by Mother Thyme and Alice Q. Foodie

  • 1/3 c. light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. greek yogurt
  • 2 big fresh cloves of garlic
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Several fresh parsley leaves or ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • A few fresh dill twigs or ½ teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Whir all the ingredients in a handy chopper or food processor until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Blue Devil Bacon Jalapeno Poppers

This recipe was shared at Recipe of the Week: Superbowl Snacks, Fit & Fabulous Fridays: Superbowl Edition, and Recipe of the Week: Hot & Spicy Recipes.


Fresh Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup

Fresh Tomato Blue Cheese Soup

A couple weeks ago my sister and I were talking on the phone and she was suggesting some ideas for my blog, which is really sweet of her, but she lives in a different world than I do. She was saying I should give people ideas on what to pack in their kids’ lunches. Which is a great idea … except I don’t have anybody to pack lunch for anymore. My daughter’s in middle school now and would rather die than take her own lunch because NOBODY does that. My son does home school and I work from home. In order to blog about something, I have to actually MAKE it and there’s not much point in me packing a lunch for an imaginary person, is there?

So the next thing she suggested is tomato soup, because it was tomato season and she had tons of fresh tomatoes from her garden … but I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t have any tomatoes in my house. My tomato plants only yielded 3 tomatoes this year … total. And anyway, I told her, I don’t like tomato soup.

That floored her. How can I NOT like tomato soup? Well, I said, I just don’t. I never have.

But she gets the last laugh on this one because the very next day I saw someone post a tomato blue cheese soup recipe and the thought of tomatoes and blue cheese in a soup really intrigued me … and then my friend gave me some tomatoes from her garden. Not a lot of tomatoes mind you … it’s towards the end of the season … but I had 4 tomatoes that were getting to the point that they NEED to be used right NOW. And the tomato blue cheese soup recipe popped into my head. Yes, I thought, today would be a good day to try that soup. So I made it … and guess what?

I love it. I mean,  like … I really really really LOVE this soup!

Ok, sis, you win! Tomato soup rocks the planet. Well, tomato blue cheese soup does anyway.

Fresh Tomato & Blue Cheese Soup

Fresh Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup that ROCKS!

Sort of roughly adapted from Amateur Gourmet. My version makes maybe 3 or 4 bowls of soup. If you’re making it for a crowd, you’re going to want to at least double the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 t. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes, peeled and chopped. I used 2 red tomatoes and 2 yellow tomatoes.
  • 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 c. fat-free half and half
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • About 1 T. fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 c. blue cheese crumbles
  • Optional: Crumbles of bacon and fresh oregano leaves for garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then swirl in the olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and garlic and sautee, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices. I let them cook for 5-10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the broth and half and half.
  4. Lower the heat to medium-low and let the soup simmer (not boil!) for about 30 – 45 minutes.
  5. Put the soup and blue cheese in the blender and blend until relatively smooth. I didn’t worry too much about getting it perfectly smooth because I like little chunks in my soup. If you want a really smooth soup, I think I might blend it twice: first I would blend the vegies together before adding the broth and half and half. Then again at the end.
  6. Serve immediately, garnished with a bit of bacon and oregano if you like.

Fresh Tomatoes & Blue Cheese in Soup

This is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food.

This recipe was shared at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursdays and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Good Deal Meals tried this soup and blogged about it! Go see what she has to say about it.


“Got the Blues” Beefy Mushroom Pizza

My Beefy Mushroom Pizza's Got the Blues

I know my pizza doesn’t look very blue … but it is. The cheery colors are misleading … down deep, it is blue. Meaty. Creamy. Blue cheese intense.

I feel blue today too. It’s one of  those nagging, something-is-bothering-me-but-I-don’t-quite-know-what-it-is kinda feelings. The kind where you wonder what the heck you are so worried about … because really my life is so good. Oh yes, there are issues to deal with. Always there are those little curve balls life throws at you. But nothing major. Nothing really worth stewing about.

Most days I tend to focus on the pluses. Smell the roses. Watch the beauty of the world around me. Feel the warmth of the sun on my face. Enjoy the company of my children and my friends.

But once in a while you gotta grumble. Roar. Sing the blues. I know it’s temporary but when these kind of blues come around, I need to embrace the feeling and go with it.

Tomorrow I will (probably) be sunshine again. Today I am blue.

A good bluesy pizza is so awesome for these kinds of days … and a little wine … and yeah, I’m playing some blues too.

Blue Cheese Beef & Mushroom Pizza

“Got the Blues” Beefy Mushroom Pizza

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite pizza crust (I pulled one of my homemade crusts from the freezer)
  • Bluesy Autumn Pizza Spread (Recipe below–includes blue cheese, asiago, parmesan, cream cheese, and squash)
  • Cooked roast beef, venison, or steak, warmed and sliced or shredded (I used the meat from my French Dips, but feel free to use whatever meat you have on hand — or leave off the meat and just enjoy the cheese & mushroom sensation)
  • Mushrooms, sliced (Chardonnay mushrooms go well on this pizza too)
  • Bell pepper, chopped
  • Onion, chopped
  • Shredded Italian Blend of Cheeses
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Just a few fresh basil leaves (if you have them)

Directions:

  1. If your pizza crust is frozen, warm it just a bit in the oven.
  2. Spread the warmed crust with a layer of the Bluesy Autumn Pizza Spread.
  3. Top with the rest of the ingredients. I started with meat, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, then added the cheeses and topped it with the tomatoes, a few more bell peppers and onions.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 – 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is good and melty and bubbly.
  5. Sprinkle with basil leaves if you have some.

Blue cheese, beef, & mushroom pizza

Bluesy Autumn Pizza Spread

I took the cheesy mixture I used on my Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese sandwich and mixed it with an equal amount of cooked cushaw (we THINK that’s what it is anyway!) squash. I think you could use butternut squash, cushaw, acorn, or pumpkin … each would give it a little different flavor, but they would all be goooood.)

This cheese mixture is the same one used in my Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

  • 3 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1 – 2 T.  freshly grated asiago cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. blue cheese crumbles

Mix the above ingredients until well blended.

  • Cooked squash or canned pumpkin

Once you have the cheese mixture made, take a bit of the cheesy mixture — just 2-3 tablespoons–and mix it with an equal amount of cooked squash or canned pumpkin. Save the rest of the cheese mixture for sandwiches or crackers.

"Got the Blues" Blue Cheese, Mushroom, Beefy Pizza

Even though I don’t feel like warm connections today, this is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food. I still love you all. I just need a moment to myself today …

This recipe was shared at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursdays and Recipe of the Week: Superbowl Snacks.


Finally! the Perfect Spinach & Artichoke Dip … with Chardonnay Mushrooms

The Perfect Spinach Artichoke Dip

There are some recipes that just come to you in a sudden flash and the first time you make them they are absolutely fantabulous the very first time you make them.

There are others that take a lot of work, several iterations, sometimes months or even years to perfect. Your tasters get tired of tasting and you get tired of trying to find ways to reuse the “failures”. My Philly Cheesesteak French Dip recipe was one of those. I don’t know how many pounds of meat I went through before I got that one right! Each version was certainly edible, but not quite up to the flavor-filled goodness I wanted.

This dip recipe was another one of THOSE. I know there are plenty of spinach artichoke dips out there–and yes, I had one that I REALLY liked, but still it was laden with fat from all the cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise.  ( I tried some of the “light” versions and they just didn’t have the right creamy cheese-ilicious taste.) In fact, the health experts tell you that Spinach Artichoke Dip is one of the foods to AVOID at holiday parties because it’s one of the most fattening (and misleading!) appetizers that people serve at parties.

You don’t have to avoid this one. I admit, it still does have fat from the cheese, but I used small amounts of good strong flavorful cheeses, so you get the cheesey taste without as much fat.  And I added some cannellini beans–they add creaminess, protein, fiber, and flavor. I skipped the sour cream and used fat free greek yogurt instead. Oh, and I included the Chardonnay Mushrooms. They were just begging to join in the party.

And yes, they fit right in.

The Perfect Spinach Artichoke Dip

The Perfect Spinach Artichoke Dip (with Chardonnay Mushrooms)

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized onion
  • 1/3 c. Chardonnay mushrooms (recipe is here)
  • 1/2 of a 15-oz. can of canellini beans, drained (reserve the juice in case you need it for blending)
  • 1 c. cooked spinach (roughly … you can add more if you like!)
  • 3 oz. light cream cheese, softened
  • 6 oz. fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1/2 of a 15-oz. container of artichokes, chopped with a knife into small pieces
  • 1 T. loose blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 c. freshly shredded asiago cheese
  • 1/4 c. freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 oz. goat cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 c. light mayonnaise
For the top:
  • A bit of part-skim mozzarella cheese and a few chopped cherry tomatoes
Directions:
  1. Toss the garlic, onion, and mushrooms in your handi chopper or food processor and process till they are just little pieces. Take them out and put them in the mixing bowl where you’ll be whooshing together your dip.
  2. Next take your spinach, put it in the processor to chop it up fine, then blot out the extra moisture with a clean towel. Add it to the bowl
  3. Now take the cannellini beans and process them in your food processor until they are a smooth soft paste. Add some liquid from the can if you need to. Pour the beans in your handy dandy mixing bowl.
  4. Now add all the other ingredients and mix them up with a spoon in the bowl until everything is nicely mixed.
  5. Pour your dip into a baking dish or casserole, top with a bit of shredded cheese and tomatoes to make it look pretty, then bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until it’s all hot and bubbly.
  6. Serve with bread, toasted tortillas, bagel chips, or vegies for dipping. Ordinary tortilla chips are not quite strong enough to stand up to this dish.

Another pretty way to serve this dip is in a bread bowl. Heat the dip, then pour into a hollowed out bread bowl with the chunks of bread for dipping. When I serve it this way, the entire thing usually gets eaten up, bowl and all!

The Realistic Nutritionist reminded me this morning that this dip also makes a great pizza!

This dip is totally addicting! If you bring it to a party, all your friends will totally love you … even more than they already do. Yes, really. Just make sure if you’re going to kiss any of them that they eat the dip too. ;)

The Perfect Spinach Artichoke Dip

This is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food.

This recipe was featured at Totally Tasty Tuesdays and shared at Katherine Martinelli’s Game Day Blog Hop and Fit & Fabulous Fridays: Superbowl Edition and Katherine Martinelli’s Skinny Bloghop.

Totally Tasty Tuesdays


Reinventing your Old Food and a Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Spinach Mushroom Grilled Cheese

It’s Blog Action Day today and since it coincides with World Food Day this year, they’ve chosen the topic of food.

I want to talk about one little thing I think most of us don’t think about too much in our fast-food, disposable society: Reuse. We recycle, and that’s good, but we should also be doing a lot more reuse.

In America, we buy a lot of food that we never eat. So much of it gets thrown in the trash, encased in a plastic bag that won’t break down, then buried in a landfill. The convenience food we buy gets overpackaged in plastic and cardboard. We even buy packaged water, which isn’t any better tasting, cleaner, or more pure than the water that comes out of the tap.

I want to challenge you to do three simple things:

  1. Buy less pre-packaged food. Opt for foods that aren’t packaged at all as much as you can. All that packaging hurts our environment.
  2. Drink out of reusable containers. Make your own bottled water with a reusable water bottle and the water that comes out of your tap. If you must have filtered water, get a water filter. Skip the plastic bottles. Bring your own travel mug to the coffee shop or ask them to put your coffee in a REAL mug. They all have real mugs, but look around at the coffee shop and notice how many people are drinking out of real mugs and how many people are drinking out of disposable containers? Why do you have to ASK for a REAL mug?
  3. Really use the food you buy.

Let’s talk more about #3. I know, leftovers can get boring, but they don’t have to be!

I don’t know if you noticed that a lot of the recipes on my blog are interconnected. The leftover Baked Herb Lemon Garlic Chicken got turned into a Pesto Chicken Bacon Pizza, the waffles my kids didn’t eat at breakfast were tossed into a delicious chocolate raspberry pudding. Leftover tzatziki and hummus became a gorgeous Greek Layer Dip. The other thing you can do is simply freeze your leftovers so you have a quick meal when you need something fast (a much better kind of “fast food” than the drive through at McDonald’s).

I use “old” bread to make breadcrumbs for breading fish, topping casseroles or stuffing (whir the bread in a food processor or handi chopper until it’s fine crumbs, then freeze them for quick use whenever you need breadcrumbs). You don’t have to buy “panko” or breadcrumbs–just use the ends of the bread you have!

“Old” bread is also lovely for making french toast or bread pizza, and it also makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich. The toasting makes it taste fresh all over again.

Instead of going out and buying MORE food to make things, try to think of different ways to reuse what you’ve got. Get creative. You will be saving money, eating more interesting, delicious meals, AND you’ll be making a difference in the world. That’s something you can feel good about.

Which leads me to this sandwich. This is a reinvention of the Chardonnay Mushrooms and the Rustic Rosemary Bread. The bread and mushrooms are really two great ingredients that can be used SO many ways. What’s better than that?

Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese

This is an amazing blend of tastes in one little sandwich. It’s a simple sandwich to make — and if you keep some of the cheese mixture and mushrooms pre-made in the fridge, you can whip up a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich in no time. The cheese, by the way, is also a really nice spread for crackers or on celery sticks. The mushrooms are great on a steak or chicken or pizza. Since spinach freezes so well, just pull out what you will use for your sandwich and put the rest back in the freezer for another use.

Before you can make this delicious sandwich, you need to make Chardonnay Mushrooms, so if you don’t have any on hand, go pop over and make those first. Here’s the recipe. It won’t take you long.  (If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, improvise a bit! Try another wine + your favorite seasoning blends!)

Spinach, Pesto & Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Spinach, Pesto, and Chardonnay Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

  • Pesto (You can use store-bought or make your own! Here’s my recipe for pesto.)
  • Chardonnay mushrooms (Recipe here!)
  • Fresh spinach leaves or frozen spinach, thawed, warmed, and blotted with a towel to take out the extra liquid
  • Reduced-fat trans-fat-free buttery spread of your choice — or butter — whatever you like to use!
  • Your favorite rustic or french bread, sliced (I used the Rustic Rosemary bread.)

Cheese mixture

  • 3 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1 – 2 T.  freshly grated asiago cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. blue cheese crumbles

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with the other cheeses till they are well blended. You can vary the cheeses according to your preferences, but I recommend intensely flavored cheeses. Once you’ve mixed them well, warm the cheese briefly in the microwave (not more than 30 seconds).
  2. If you have fresh spinach, make sure it’s washed and dried well. I used frozen, so I heated in the microwave, then pressed a clean towel over it to remove the excess juices.
  3. Spread a very thin layer of buttery spread on the outside of the bread slices.
    Butter the outside of the bread slices first
  4. Flip over the slices. On one slice of bread for each sandwich, spread a thin layer of pesto. On the other side, spread with a thicker layer of the warm cheese mixture.
    Spread the inside of the slices: one with pesto, one with cheese mixture
  5. On top of the pesto side, arrange several spinach leaves or cooked spinach, then top with the Chardonnay Mushrooms.
    Top with spinach and mushrooms
  6. Put the cheesy slice on top of the sandwich.
  7. Heat a saucepan to med-high heat. Place each sandwich in the pan and cover for a few minutes. When the first side is golden brown and toasty, flip the sandwich to toast the other side.
  8. Slice and enjoy!
Spinach & Chardonnay Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
This is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food.
This recipe was featured at Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays.

Creamy Lowfat Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

Creamy Lowfat Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

Do you like blue cheese? I think it’s one of those things you either love or hate. If you don’t, then skip this post. I’m sure there’s something else here that’ll catch your fancy.

Me, I love blue cheese. When I’m at a restaurant and they ask me what kind of dressing I want on my salad, I always say “Blue Cheese on the Side.” When I’m at home, I change up the dressings a lot and experiment with different flavors, but when I’m out, I want blue cheese. If I’m lucky it’s one that they make fresh at the restaurant that has real hunks of blue cheese in it.

You can whip up an awesome low-fat dressing in just a few minutes that will taste SOOoooo much better than the store-bought stuff — and it will be a heck of a lot healthier for you. Oh, and it costs a lot less than those bottled dressings that have all the nasty chemical preservatives in them. Have you ever read the labels on one of those bottles?

Trust me on this one, it’s SO much better to make your own. You’ll feel like a rock star when you serve your salad with homemade blue cheese dressing.

Creamy Lowfat Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

Creamy Low-fat Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

Adapted from Eating Well

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk, or nonfat milk — I used fat free half and half, but I think buttermilk would be better
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar, red wine vinegar or white vinegar (I used 1 T. red wine & 1 T. white)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon pesto (optional)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, (1 ounce)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together all ingredients except the blue cheese until smooth.
  2. Stir in the blue cheese. I like to leave it chunky, but if you want, you can mash the blue cheese with your spoon to blend it into your dressing more.

Here it is on the Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Sweet Spicy Nuts:

Pear Salad with Creamy Lowfat Blue Cheese Dressing


Pear Salad with Blue Cheese & Sweet Spicy Nuts

Pear Salad with Sweet & Spicy Nuts

This month I am doing a series of connections through food. I signed up for this challenge to blog every day in October about how food helps us connect, but I made no plan how I was going to go about it. I have found so many connections through food that I just trusted this would happen. Like it did when I started this blog. Or actually, even before I started it.

So today’s connection was just a little freaky.

I had seen a great post from Cookie & Kate on Strawberry Spinach Salad with Sweet and Spicy Walnuts, and shared it on facebook and we had exchanged a few comments about the walnuts and what other great combinations you could make with them.

So this walnut salad idea was forming in my head … and I looked back at her recipe and realized it only takes a few minutes to make these nuts … I could do this for lunch! HA!

I went into the kitchen, made these lovely nuts, threw together the salad of my daydreams, made some cheesy basil/garlic toast to compliment the sweet salad,  took some pics, and went back to work. As I was munching on my salad and cheesy garlic toast, I popped into my personal page on facebook to see what my friends were up to.

And my friend Russ had just posted this picture: (BTW, in case you are wondering, yes, he gave me permission to post the picture.)

My friend Russ's Lunch Today

“Open faced chicken panini and salad. 7 points Ciabatta 1/2 roll, sliced grilled chicken, tomato, low fat feta and mozzarella, drops of Tuscan herb olive oil, toasted. Mixed greens with low fat Italian dressing topped with a few sugar roasted walnuts.”

I looked at what he was eating, I looked at what I was eating (at the very same moment in time) and it just seemed like one of those freaky Zen moments when you both are doing exactly the same thing at exactly the same time in completely different places. I know his lunch is not EXACTLY like mine, but my gosh look it’s the same greens! and my cheesy garlic toast was on a toasted bun almost exactly like his. (Sorry I have no photo of the garlic toast … I only pic’d the salad.)

If it weren’t for Russ, I wouldn’t even be food blogging! I got started with taking pictures of my food because Russ pushed me to. A long time ago, I went to college with Russ and we have since re-connected on Facebook. He recently started a new initiative to eat healthier, and as part of that, he started posting pictures of the food he is eating every day. Russ is a genius with food presentation and since I’m a total foodie, every time I saw a Russ food pic, I commented. And since I was constantly sharing descriptions of the food I was eating, Russ started asking for pictures. And so I started taking pictures.

Until eventually (with a little encouragement from a few other friends) I got up the courage to start a food blog … that’s how Sumptuous Spoonfuls was born. My friends helped me pick out a name for it. It went through several mutations before I finally settled on Sumptuous Spoonfuls. One of my other friends had suggested Scrumptious Spoonfuls (or Sporkfuls! for fun), but then I think it was Russ who said Sumptuous would work too. And I like how it sounds together.

Oh yes, back to the salad! I had been dreaming of a beautiful pear, blue cheese, and toasted spicy sweet nuts. The only question was what dressing to use with it? I considered a yogurt dressing, but since I was in a rush, I went with something I already had made: my Kickin Berry Vinaigrette. A creamy blue cheese might be nice with this too.

There is another story too about the Spicy Nuts part, but I think I will need to save that for another day.

Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

Directions:

  1. Fill your salad bowl mostly full with greens.
  2. Top with onion, blue cheese and pear chunks.
  3. Toss a few toasted sweet & spicy nuts on top.
  4. Drizzle the lovely dressing over.
  5. Serve with a savory toasted cheesy garlicky bread thing to offset the sweetness of the salad. With or without meat.
Pear salad with blue cheese and sweet & spicy walnuts
This recipe was shared at It’s a Keeper Thursdays and featured in Full Belly Sisters Virtual Thanksgiving Feast.

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