Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pin to Win

    Please get those final comments in before the cookbook give-away deadline at midnight tonight.  Feel free to comment on past posts; you are not limited to just the ones from March.  Become a follower or pin one of my posts to Pinterest to be entered in the drawing.  Who will the lucky winner be?  Keep reading "Outside the Box" to see.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Little Black Book

    It is time for me to get back on track with my project.  I have been having a ball sharing interesting creations with you.  However, my cooking has been leaning towards the "clean out the refrigerator" style instead of working on my black binder of "New Recipes."  I am taking requests.  What would you like to see: new dinner ideas, meatless meals, desserts, breakfast foods, snacks, international cuisine?  Tell me what you would like to see and I will check my little black book of recipes.  It will be interesting to see what is coming next!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Follow the Yellow Mick Road

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* Sign up to follow me this month and you will be entered in the March Milestones cookbook give-away contest.

*I love to hear from my readers, please comment on a post this month!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2 Heads Are Better Than One

Quinoa Stuffed Cabbage
Somehow both Dan and I ended up picking cabbage for the St. Patrick's Day boiled dinner.  After our corned beef and cabbage, I was left with an extra head of cabbage to use up. 

   My Mom used to make the most fantastic galumpkis, otherwise known as stuffed cabbage.  I didn't have any ground beef in the house so I decided to get creative and substitute the stuffing. 

   After checking out the Betty Crocker recipe for Cabbage Rolls, I modified it to a meatless meal that would be a good vehicle to use up cabbage.   It turned out fantastic.  Mom enjoyed one for lunch the next day.

First, I boiled up a batch of quinoa. Here's how:
  *Heat 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water to boiling. 
  *Reduce heat to low.
  *Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. 
  *Makes 3 to 4 cups quinoa. 

Since I wasn't using beef I shortened the recipe.
   *Boil the cabbage leaves.
   *Stir boiled quinoa, 1/2 can crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.
   *Fill cabbage with stuffing and tuck the leaves under.
   * Pour the other half can of sauce over the whole pan
   *Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

Stuffing the Cabbage Leaves

Cabbage Rolls
from: Betty Crocker's Cookbook

Cabbage leaves will separate easily if you first remove the core from the head of the cabbage and let the cabbage stand in cold water for 10 minutes.

12 cabbage leaves
1 pound of lean ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked instant rice
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 can (4 ounces)  mushroom pieces and stems, undrained
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

1. Cover cabbage leaves with boiling water. Cover and let stand about 10 minutes or until leaves are limp. Remove leaves; drain.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Mix beef, rice, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, salt, pepper, onion, garlic and mushrooms.
4. Place about 1/3 of the beef mixture at stem end of each leaf. Roll leaf around beef mixture, tucking in sides. Place cabbage rolls, seam sides down, in ungreased square baking dish, 8 x 8 x 2 inches.
5. Mix remaining tomato sauce, sugar and lemon juice; pour over cabbage rolls.
6. Cover and bake about 45 minutes or until beef mixture is no longer pink in center.
7. Remove cabbage rolls to platter. Pour liquid in baking dish into 10-quart saucepan. Mix cornstarch and water; stir into liquid. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Pour sauce over cabbage rolls.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just Desserts

Blueberry Baked Apples
    As the rain is pouring down outside it is time for a cozy meal.  A nice roast chicken or pork in the oven makes the house fragrant and warm.  Since the oven is already on, I make baked apples to go with the meal. 

    There are about eight Macintosh growing old in the fruit bowl so it is time to get out the Pampered Chef Wedger and Corer.  This makes quick work of slicing a bunch of apples.  Next I line the apples in the bottom of my little roaster and add pats of butter.  Now it is time to sprinkle on the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger.  I pour a couple of cups of frozen blueberries on for a change.  As they cook down, they create a syrup over the apples.   After an hour the apples will be cooked through.  I leave them in the oven while we eat to keep them warm.

   Green apples are my favorite to bake.  You can add a bit of honey.  Cooked apples are sweet enough to my taste. I like to use up a bunch of apples since leftover baked apples make a great oatmeal topper. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pumpkin Pudding

Whipped Pumpkin Pudding Surprise
    I remember a time when the question, "What's for dessert?"  was not a nightly occasion.  I like a treat as much as anyone, but I don't like to indulge every night.  My answer is to come up with something reasonably healthy and trying to present it in a fun manner.

   Halfway through dinner, the perennial question surfaced.  Well I did some quick thinking and came up with, "It's a surprise."  Which really means, I have no idea so I am stalling for time.  Also, I really don't want the amount of meal consumed to be reflected by the quality of the promised dessert.  Please just eat your dinner and don't tell me, "I didn't eat my asparagus so I could leave room for my dessert." It really doesn't work that way.

   After dinner, I found a can of pumpkin and heavy cream.  I made a double batch of whipped cream with vanilla that I previously  featured in Peaches 'N Cream and folded in the pumpkin with a squirt of honey.  The pumpkin pudding was well received by my dessert connoisseurs.  According to my research pumpkins are a good source of fiber, beta carotene, antioxidants, and vitamin C. Therefore, the sweet tooth crowd is satisfied and so is the nutrition minded cook.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunny Salad

Shrimp Salad
   There's nothing like a sunny meal out on the deck to get you in the mood for summer.  The odd thing is, it is only the middle of March!  We have had an unusual winter with little snow and now we've skipped right into a heat wave.  Usually, I am cooking up a big pot of soup or have the oven going with comfort food this time of year!

   I'm not one to enjoy the typical garden salad of iceberg lettuce, a pale tomato, a slice of carrot and some croutons with sweet diet dressing.  My idea of a salad has lots of olives, avocado, beans, the tang of hot peppers, and balsamic vinegar.

    I prepared a vegetable salad side dish the night before with squash, broccoli, radishes, onions, Vegenaise, and fresh basil. Then I quickly boiled up shrimp and made a salad for lunch with avocado and beans. I combined the leftover shrimp and beans with the veggie salad to make a third dish.  All the flavors marinated together for a delicious meal on a warm night!

Vegetable Salad

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Muffins, Muffins, Galore

Blueberry Muffins
  I wanted to make a big batch of muffins for a busy weekend.  It would serve as both a fun activity to do together and an easy breakfast the next morning. Not wanting to jack everyone up on sugar, I searched for a recipe using stevia.  It took me some browsing time to decide since I had canned pumpkin and bananas,  but lacked some ingredients such as pineapple juice. 

   My bakers decided for me with an emphatic "We want blueberry!"  I added more oat flour since I had no graham flour. Having only frozen blueberries in stock, I was concerned the colors would streak when baked.  As you can see it was not a problem.  Now to solve the mystery of the missing muffin!

Submitted by: DREAMERCHICK83

Number of Servings: 12


    2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries 1 cup minus 1TBS ww graham flour 3/4 cup oat flour 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1TBS stevia 2 egg whites 3/4 c plain fat free yogurt 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce


Preheat oven to 375. Grease muffin tin .Combine dry ingredients. Combine in separate bowl, eggs yogurt, applesauce and mix. Combine the two mixtures. drain blueberries and add to mixture with 1tbs of flour.

Do You Like Bean Soup With Ham?

Senate Bean Soup
   I had the ham bone left from Hamming It Up , but when I checked the pantry, there were no split peas.  I didn't feel like driving to the store to pick up the ingredients to make split-pea soup.  I found a recipe for bean soup that used ham and beans I had aplenty.

   There wasn't much ham left on the bone, but I managed to squeeze another meal out of it.  I stuck  true to the recipe except the the leftover carrots added to use up.  The meaty flavor and thick potatoes made a satisfying meal.  We rated it 4 thumbs up!

Senate Bean Soup
from: Betty Crocker Cookbook

2 cups dried navy beans (1 pound)
12 cups water
1 ham bone
2 12 cups mashed cooked potatoes
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1. Heat beans and water to boiling in 4-quart Dutch oven. Boil uncovered 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour.
2. Add ham bone. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 2 hours or until beans are tender.
3. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer 1 hour.
4. Remove ham bone; let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove ham from bone. Remove excess fat from ham; cut ham into 1/2 inch pieces. Stir ham into soup.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Smoothie Operator

Peach Smoothie
   Our featured smoothie in the picture is courtesy of our August peach picking.  I threw in some frozen peaches, vanilla, and yogurt.  It is a little summer memory in a glass.

   Smoothies are fun to make with kids and include a variety of fruit in their diet.  I let them pour everything in and making sure the lid is on tight, they get to push the button.

    My favorite smoothie uses frozen strawberries and blueberries, plain yogurt, a splash of orange juice, fresh or frozen bananas and sometimes milk.  If there are any leftovers, pour them in some Dixie cups and add sticks to make Popsicles in the freezer.

   Smoothies use up the fruit bowl like soup cleans out the refrigerator.  If  bananas are getting spotty, I freeze them for later or throw them in the blender.  Dan makes an awesome banana smoothie with yogurt, honey and vanilla.  It is so good!

   Smoothies are a versatile treat.  I serve them for breakfast, snacks and dessert.  You can sneak secret ingredients like flax oil in and nobody knows they are there.  Carrot juice alone is one thing.  Blend it with frozen strawberries, and the reception is completely different.   

Friday, March 9, 2012

Do I Like Scallops?

Scallop Fettuccine
   This one is for Dad.  One year when my family was on a camping trip the rain just wouldn't stop.  We ended up going out to a restaurant probably just to dry off.  I was at the kid table with my sisters and the boys from next door.  As I looked at the menu, I asked, "Dad, do I like scallops?"  It turned out I did.  Now whenever we have them it brings back memories of this family adventure. 

   One night Dan was working down in the cellar and I wasn't sure what to have for dinner.  It was one of those nights when I have "cooking block" which is like writer's block except who can think on an empty stomach?  I pulled a bag of scallops out of the freezer and whipped up this delightful dish.  It took longer to cook the pasta then to make the entree.  I sauteed some fresh spinach in olive oil and garlic to serve under my scallops since I was going gluten-free.  Boy that stuff really cooks down.

Spinach with garlic
  Scallops in Cream Sauce
   This was a "dash of this and pinch of that" meal made without looking at a recipe.  Here's what I did:
Saute garlic in butter.  Add bag of frozen scallops. The frozen scallops will release water so let it cook down. Add 2 cups heavy cream. Stir in 2 tablespoons arrowroot to thicken sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook until scallops are opaque.    Sprinkle with parsley and serve over pasta.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tortilla Time

Quinoa Tortillas

                                                                                                                      My Mom makes the best tacos.  She serves them hot from the griddle.  My sister says you have to put the cheese in the bottom of the taco instead of sprinkling it on top.  That way it melts in better.

    I found a recipe for tortillas using quinoa.  You can have protein even in a meatless taco.  I add 1/4 of parsley and a dash of hot sauce so they look just like Mom's cornmeal tortillas.  I add an additional cup water to create a batter consistency.

   Thanks to the suggestion of reader Tree Huggin Mama I now enjoy easy lentil tacos.  I boil red lentils, mash them and add cumin and chili pepper.  I like to serve them with a and a side of re-fried beans or sweet potatoes and a quick Spanish rice consisting of leftover brown rice with added salsa. 

Quinoa Tortillas

2 cups quinoa flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup water

Stir flour and salt. Add flour.  Knead dough.  Roll on floured board. Fry 3 minutes on each side. Cool.
Lentil Tacos on Quinoa Tortilla

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ants on a Blog

Banana Split
    With a request for a banana split and no ice-cream in the house there's no need to panic.  Cut a banana in half and top it with peanut butter.  The best part is  letting your junior assistant "sprinkle" the raisins on. 

  Ants on a log are another fun snack to make with peanut butter.  I let the kids use small cream cheese spreaders instead of knives.  With no sharp edges and no cooking, let them have a ball sticking  peanut butter to the celery.

   At one point I had an apple bandit in my house.  There would be two or three bite marks in the apples in the fruit bowl, but never a finished apple.  I use the Pampered Chef apple wedger and corer to make apple slices.  Then I fan them out to make a flower or sunrise shape.  I put a dollop of peanut butter in the middle for a fun dipping treat. 

   If you have peanut butter allergies in your household, I often use pumpkin seed butter as an alternative.  It is green which looks unusual, but it works for dipping and is great spread on a banana or pink lady apple.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rice, Rice, Baby

Lentil Rice Risotto

  If you've ever made risotto you know it is a time-consuming dish to make.  I have a trick that can save you the effort and still have this satisfying meal.  Make it in the crockpot.  That's right, risotto without the stirring!  This is one of my favorite meatless meals since it is full of flavor and easy to make.

   I like to double the recipe to ensure plenty of leftovers or to feed a crowd.  Please excuse the picture; it was steamy under the lid!  This recipe is a copy in my interesting short hand.  I actually followed the original since the crockpot makes it easy.

Risotto With Lentils    Serves 4
from: The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley

1/2 cup dried lentils, rinsed
3/4 cup rice
4 cups water
1 tsp salt

Combine ingredients and cook on high for 2 hours. Chop 1/2 onion- saute 10 minutes until golden brown. Add to the pot. Serve with olive oil, 1/2 cup each: grated cheese and parsley. Add salt and pepper.  Serve with salad, grilled vegetables or stuffed artichokes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hamming It Up


    Dan picked up a ham at the market for 99 cents a pound and boy did we get a lot of mileage out of it.  First he baked it in the oven and served it with boiled potatoes and carrots.  The next day I added chopped bits of ham to scrambled eggs.  We reheated some ham and potatoes for another meal and then it was time for a new spin on the leftovers.

   I got out the cookbook and looked in the index under ham.  I couldn't decide between scalloped potatoes or ham and broccoli pie.  I took what I had available from both recipes and mashed it together. 

    I sliced the boiled potatoes and carrots.  I layered the pototoes, carrots and ham lasagna style. I had a couple heads of broccoli so these were chopped and in they went. I prepared the white sauce as directed for scalloped potatoes.  I scrambled 4 eggs and stirred in the white sauce to blend. 
     Now instead of having a side dish I had a potato casserole with eggs and vegetables all in one dish.  My cooking time was a quick 30 minutes since only the eggs and broccoli needed cooking.  It turned out to be a big hit and we even had leftovers, again!

The Original Ham Recipes from Betty Crocker Cookbook

Impossibly Easy Ham and Broccoli  Pie
1 cup cut up cooked ham
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 large eggs
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
2 cups frozen broccoli cuts

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease pie plate.
2. Sprinkle ham, cheese and onions in pie plate
3. Beat remain ingredients with fork until blended. Pour into pie plate.
4. Bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle 1/2 shredded cheese evenly over top. Bake 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Stand 5 minutes.

Scalloped Potatoes

3 tbsp butter
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
6 medium peeled or unpeeled potatoes, thinly sliced (6 cups)
1 tbsp butter

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and side of 2-quart casserole with butter.
2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion in butter about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly remove from heat.
3. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.
4. Spread potatoes in casserole. Pour sauce over potatoes. Cut 1 tablespoon butter into small pieces; sprinkle over potatoes. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 1 hour loner or until potatoes are tender. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving (sauce thickens as it stands).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Oat What a Beautiful Morning

    On a winter day it is great to start out with a hot breakfast.  Oatmeal sticks to your ribs and can be prepared in a variety of ways to keep it from getting boring.  My Mom used to make it with butter, raisins, brown sugar, and a dash of milk to cool it down.

     I use whatever is on hand as an "oatmeal topper."  I know magicians don't reveal their tricks, but since I don't wear a big hat, I can tell you. Our most popular preparation is to add frozen blueberries.    The blueberries defrost in the hot oatmeal and bring the cereal to an edible temperature. 

     It is a great way to slip some fruit into the most important meal of the day.  If I have bananas going past their prime, in they go that day with a dash of cinnamon.  I also like ginger, nutmeg and vanilla.  Feel free to throw in some nuts for added protein. Sometimes I use a splash of maple syrup. 

     Little ones can call it "pirate buried treasure" since the bananas are gold coins and the shredded coconut, jewels.  They dig to the bottom of the bowl to see what might be hidden in their oatmeal.    What is your favorite way to serve oatmeal?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Snack Attack

Cinnamon Raisin Pumpkin Seeds
   I searched the cupboard for an afternoon snack and came up with nada.  There was food in there, but nothing looked interesting at the moment.  I had a bulk bag of pumpkin seeds from the co-op.    I bought a ton of them since they were on sale, but when I brought them home I realized they were raw.  For some reason I didn't feel like roasting them in the oven in August.  With the blustery weather, it is cozy to have the oven warming the house.
    These are not like the jack-o-lantern variety of pumpkin seeds .  They are much smaller and don't have the shell on.  They are high in zinc so they make a great snack without the junk food guilt. I usually bake the pumpkin seeds plain and then add season salt.

  Since we had a plethora of pumpkin seeds I decided to make two batches, one savory and one sweet.  I lined two cookie sheets with foil and olive oil.  Then I put a single layer of pumpkin seeds on each one.  I sprinkled the first pan with cinnamon and the second pan with oregano and garlic salt.

  I baked the pumpkin seeds for about 20 minutes or until they popped.  When they cooled, I added raisins to the cinnamon batch.  These would be great with nuts, cereal and dried fruit to make trail mix or sprinkled over yogurt.  The "pizza" flavored seeds were a salty, crunchy treat.  Another variation to try would be a cayenne, spicy blend.  Happy Snacking!

Pizza flavored pumpkin seeds

Friday, March 2, 2012

Soup du Jour

French Onion Soup
    After  a decadent meal of prime rib, baked potatoes and french bread I had a conundrum, what to do with the leftovers?  Dan said the bread wasn't good for anything but to feed the birds.  I accepted this as a challenge to find a resourceful way to use it up.  
     My friend and I used to order French Onion Soup whenever we were out.  I had never dared to make it at home. Of course back then my idea of cooking was to open a can of soup and warm it on the stove.   Here I had a cold winter day without a full schedule so it was the perfect opportunity to delve into a new recipe.

   Rather than using the called for cans of broth, I  simmered the rib bones, celery leaves and a bay leaf with 6 cups of water for about 45 minutes to create beef broth.  In the meantime, I started cooking the onions. I stayed "on recipe" until step 4.
   I took a shortcut at the end  (imagine that) by melting the cheese over the previously toasted bread in the microwave and then spooning the finished soup around it.  The bread really soaked it up.  I was delighted with the outcome.  I didn't think this dish was within my cooking finesse.  It does take a bit of time, but the results are worth the effort.  Bon Appetit!

French Onion Soup
From: Betty Crocker Cookbook

2 tablespoons butter
4 medium onions, sliced
2 cans (10 1/2 ounces each) condensed beef broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
4 slices French bread, 3/4 to inch thick toasted
1 cup shredded Swiss or mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Melt butter in 4-quart nonstick Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Stir in onions to coat with butter. Cook uncovered 10 minutes, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low. cook 35 to 40 minutes longer, stirring well every 5 minutes, until onions are light golden brown (onions will shrink during cooking).
3. Stir in broth, water, pepper, thyme and bay leaf.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
4. Set oven control to broil. Place bread in 4 ovenproof bowls or individual casseroles. Add onion soup. Top with Swiss cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place bowls on cookie sheet or in pan with shallow sides.
5.  Broil with cheese about 5 inches from heat 1 to 2 minutes or just until cheese is melted and golden brown.  Watch carefully so cheese does not burn.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Milestones

      When I started my blog a year ago in March, my goal was to try a new recipe each week.  By sharing them on my blog I was attempting to be accountable to a long term project of actually cooking instead of just hoarding recipes with no follow through.  There were some months that I cooked, but didn't write much.  Often I did not follow the recipes at all, but created a different meal by cleaning out the refrigerator. 

      I am nearing my goal of fifty-two posts in one year.   I have been pleasantly surprised by how many readers have followed my journey. I knew my Dad was reading my posts, but when I saw readers from other countries had discovered my blog I was amazed.  The day I learned one of my posts had made its way onto Pinterest I was thrilled. 

   Halfway through this month marks two important milestones, the one year anniversary of my blog and my milestone birthday.  Add to that our upcoming 10 year wedding anniversary in June and I have many reasons to celebrate.

   During this special month each time a reader comments at "Outside the Box", pins or re-pins one of my blog posts onto Pinterest, or signs up to be a follower of "Outside the Box" I will enter their name into a drawing toward a copy of 30-Minute Meals 2 by Rachel Ray. That's right, you may enter by commenting on new and prior postings. Multiple entries will be collected from Thursday March 1st until Saturday, March 31st.  I will distribute the book to the lucky winner.