Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tortellini Salad

Memorial Day proved to be a complete washout in NE Oklahoma. Starting in the early hours of the morning, we had one thunderstorm after another, all day, and a couple of tornado warnings thrown in for good measure.

Also, one of our cats, Alvin, had hurt his leg or foot on Saturday night, (doesn’t it always happen at the holidays?), and we had been trying to get hold of the vet since Sunday morning. He, of course, was out of town, and we finally managed to reach him on Monday evening. My purse was $98 lighter at the end of Alvin’s treatment, but at least he hadn’t broken anything.

Because of all the torrential rain, grilling was off the menu, but it was still warm so we had a Tortellini Salad.

Tortellini Salad


1 9-ounce package refrigerated 3-cheese tortellini
2 zucchini, halved and chopped into bite sized pieces.
1 bell pepper, whatever color takes your fancy, cut into chunks
1 beefsteak tomato, cut into chunks.
2 ribs of celery, chopped.
¼ red onion sliced
6 tablespoons Greek vinaigrette salad dressing (or Italian if you prefer)
1 tablespoon olive oil + a drizzle
12 black olives halved (I used manzanilla this time as I was out of black)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded


  • Cook tortellini according to package directions.
  • While tortellini cooks, heat 1-tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat, and sauté zucchini and bell pepper until tender but firm, approx. 4-5 minutes.
  • Drain zucchini and peppers on paper towels, and allow to cool.
  • Drain tortellini, and drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent sticking, allow to cool.
  • In a large salad bowl, toss tortellini, zucchini, peppers, tomato, celery, onion and olives with salad dressing. Place in refrigerator and allow to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Before serving sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serve with crusty French or garlic bread.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Honey Mustard & Rosemary Kebabs

After pigging out at the restaurant on Saturday, we pigged out on Sunday, too, but we tried to do it in a bit healthier way. We had grilled honey and rosemary chicken kebabs; I got the recipe for the marinade from Taste of Home, and adapted it, as it sounded a bit too sweet. We also had rice cooked on the grill, and a spinach salad.

Honey Mustard Chicken Kebabs
Serves 4

I only used one chicken breast as I like lots of veggies on my kebabs, use two if you prefer more meat.


1/3 cup honey
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary.
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
A dash of black pepper
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
1 green or red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, cut into chunks
6 large mushrooms, halved
1 beefsteak tomato, cut into wedges

  • In a small bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Pour half the marinade into a gallon size plastic storage/freezer bag, add chicken turning to coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade.
  • Drain and discard marinade. Thread chicken and vegetables, but not tomatoes, alternately onto 4 metal skewers.
  • Brush a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil with a little vegetable oil and place kebabs on it. Put wedges of tomato between the kebabs. Place on barbecue grill and cook for approximately 20 minutes, (or to desired doneness), turning frequently and basting with remaining marinade.
Spinach Salad

Serves 4

I used fresh spinach from our garden, yum.


I’m not sure how much spinach I used, probably about 4 ounces?
1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
A drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried basil.
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
If you want a little extra crunch add some pine nuts, or slivered almonds.


  • Place spinach on a serving plate. Top with sliced tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and a slosh of red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with basil and a dash of black pepper. Top with feta cheese.

Rice on the Grill

I got this recipe from and modified it a bit.


1 1/3 cups uncooked basmati rice
1 celery rib, sliced
1/3 cup green or red pepper, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chicken broth/stock
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon butter.

  • Put rice in a 9-inch square aluminum foil pan, layer veggies on top, pour in stock and water. Cut butter into thin slivers and dot them over the top.
  • Cover with foil, sealing edges tightly. Cook on grill for about 20 minutes. Serve hot, but is also great cold.

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Turtle Soup, anyone?

On Saturday night, Mick and I went out to celebrate my success in the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation annual writing contest. If you’re interested you can read about it at

Much to our dismay, we found that our favorite restaurant had changed hands and is now a sports bar and grill. It was a really good place, too, but probably a bit too off the beaten track, hence their demise. Tables were far enough apart that you didn’t have to sit on your neighbor’s knee. Their food was superb, and they had a good wine list. They also had a lovely patio area overlooking a pond with a fountain, where you could watch the fish and turtles swimming about. Oh hum.

Instead we went to our second choice, The Roadhouse, on Monkey Island, (there are no monkeys, and it’s not an island, go figure). Now don’t be mislead by the name, the place is not full of cowpokes, in fact, there’s not even a whiff of fried chicken on the menu, and very other car on the parking lot was a Mercedes, so our little Saturn was in good company. Why is it that when people have pots of money they prefer to donate it to the German economy rather than prop up their own?
Anyway, this place is always jumping on a Saturday night, and we had committed the ultimate sin of not making a reservation, consequently they fobbed us off with a table in the bar. We ought to have left, but we were hungry.
Now, I have no complaints about the food or the service, both of which were excellent, but the table was extremely cramped, and the bar very noisy. But what really pissed me off is there were several empty tables, and they remained that way until we had finished eating. Now I appreciate that if people have made a reservation, they don’t want to be kept waiting, but we could have eaten and left before they even turned up. Or, we would have happily taken our coffee out on the patio, if they had showed up early.
I know I shouldn’t bitch, it’s our own fault for not making a reservation, but we hadn’t intended to go there in the first place. Anyway, I’ll let that be a lesson to me, and not go there again unless I’ve booked a table.
So what did we have? For starters we shared:
Escargots, dripping in garlic butter, with warm rolls for dunking.
Deep-fried breaded calamari, with a black bean dipping sauce.
This was followed by a salad, with hot honey mustard dressing.
Then I had, chicken and artichokes in a creamy mushroom sauce.
Mick had the rack of lamb, as lamb is as rare as hens teeth in Oklahoma.
We both had the Monte Carlo potatoes, which I’m guessing are baked potatoes chopped into bite size pieces, and then roasted with a honey glaze and some herbs, they were delish, and they came with steamed veg.
Needless to say, we neither of us had room for pudding/dessert, but then we’re not big sweet eaters.
Sorry about the layout, but blogger is having paragraph problems again.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Salad Days

I know my great-great-grandma would recognize all the ingredients in this salad

Salad days are finally here. Well, most of the time. Truth be told, our weather is all over the place at the mo; tornadoes, severe thunder storms, torrential rain, but it is mostly warm, and we have had some sunshine.

The big advantage of salad days is we do most of our cooking outdoors on the grill, now when I say we, I mean Mick does most of the cooking on the grill. And this does mean that I get to unchain myself from the stove for a few months, and just make lots of lovely salads. At the moment, I’m still having to use mainly store bought ingredients, but as soon as everything in our garden ripens I’ll be able to use homegrown produce.

Last week, I saw an interesting article on Nightline. They interviewed a guy called Michael Pollan who has written a book entitled, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Pollan states that much of what Americans consume is not food. He says, "There is food and there is what I call edible food-like substances. These are things we've invented in the last 50 years or so that, you know, smell like food, taste like food, look like food, but they're very different than the kinds of things people ate a hundred years ago."

Pollan thinks that we shouldn’t eat anything that our great-great-grandmothers wouldn't recognize as food. And while he does recommend doing your shopping at Farmer’s Markets, he does understand that most of us have no choice but to shop at supermarkets. That being the case he says, the bulk of your food should come from the periphery of the store, i.e. fresh fruit and veg, meat and fish, and dairy, and not from the center aisles.

Well, I must be doing something right because I’ve had supermarket cashiers comment, "I bet you make everything from scratch, don’t you?" And mostly, I do. That’s usually followed by, "I wish I had the time." I don’t have the time either, but I make time, because it’s important. (I am, of course, far too polite to say this, but maybe I should).

The cashiers around here also don’t know their leeks from their rutabagas, because whenever I buy them they always have to ask me what they are. :-)

By way of a contrast to Michael Pollan you might want to check out the 20 worst foods in America. BTW, I can say without fear of contradiction, that I have never eaten any of these "foods."

Summer Salad


½ an iceberg lettuce, chopped into strips
2 ribs celery, chopped
½ green or red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
¼ cucumber, deseeded and chopped
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
1 large or 2 small tomatoes, chopped.
6 radishes, halved.
12 manzanilla olives, halved

The radishes did come from our garden


Throw all ingredients in a bowl.

You can use whatever salad dressing you like, I just drizzled this with some olive oil, added a few splashes of red wine vinegar, and a dash or two of fresh ground black pepper.

I served it with a peppered pork loin, and rice, both cooked on the grill. Those recipes will doubtless appear here over the coming months.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Spaghetti Bolognese & Garlic Bread

I have a guest blogger here today, my hubby, Mick with his favorite recipe, actually the only one he can make. I jest, he is a master on the grill, so will doubtless be performing a great many culinary feats over the summer. Take it away, Mick.

Le petit chef, practising his semaphore in the garden. Don't ask! :-)

Sometimes Jan’s going to be late home from a writers meeting. Maybe she’s busy in her office trying to get that project finished for a fast approaching deadline, or simply "cheesed off" of cooking and wanting a night off. At these times I can always rustle up a Spag Bol.

It’s the usual guy meal, I know, but I try to put a little extra imagination in there too, so it’s not just a plain sauce and pasta meal.

I’m always impressed when I watch my wife cook. She calmly strolls around the kitchen pulling the necessary ingredients from fridge and cupboards, while pans boil and simmer as required. Everything seems to come together at the right time. If I did it that way half the meal would be raw and the rest burnt to a cinder. Hey, I’m a bloke. I need a plan, written down with precise measurements and cooking times. All the necessary ingredients must be out, lined up and ready to use. But this dish is so easy even I can make it on the fly. And it’s pretty tasty too!

Come and visit with me at my gardening blog sometime, I'll put the kettle on, I might even be able to rustle up a biccy.

Spaghetti Bolognese and Garlic Bread

Serves 4


1 lb. ground sirloin
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 14½ ounce can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 level teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano, (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
4 ounces mushrooms, quartered
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded

Garlic Bread


½ a French loaf, cut in half lengthwise
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, + about 2 teaspoons butter.


  • In a medium saucepan, over a medium-high heat, brown ground beef, stirring constantly to break up meat. (This is a dry-fry method). Drain any fat
  • Reduce heat to medium, add garlic to meat and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Add onion, and sauté for a further 4 minutes.
  • Add canned tomatoes, and break tomatoes in half.
  • Add tomato paste and stir into mixture.
  • Reduce heat to low, add chili powder, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, oregano, and black pepper, simmer for 20 minutes.

While sauce simmers prepare garlic bread.

  • Spread each half of French bread with approximately 2 teaspoons butter, and place on a foil covered baking sheet.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add garlic, and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Spoon garlic butter evenly over bread, and set aside.
  • Heat broiler to high.
  • Cook spaghetti according to package directions, drain thoroughly and combine with sauce.
  • Place garlic bread under broiler for 2-3 minutes until bread is golden brown and toasty.

    Sprinkle shredded Parmesan atop the pasta and serve immediately.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chicken Tikka Masala

You're not going to eat that, are you?
Yes, I am. And very scrummy, yummy it
was too.

Don’t let the cast of characters put you off attempting this recipe, it’s basically chicken and tomatoes, with a load of spices thrown in. And don’t be fooled by appearances, curries are not terribly photogenic, tending to look like something the dog has thrown up, but believe me they taste, and smell, divine.

This is a very mild curry, so even if you’re not a fan of really spicy food, you’ll like this. You should allow the chicken to marinade for a minimum of four hours, overnight is best. You will also need 4 skewers for grilling the chicken.

Chicken Tikka Masala



1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
A generous dash fresh ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-inch fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes.


In a medium bowl, combine first 8 ingredients, and stir in chicken. Cover bowl, and marinade in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Curry Sauce


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, deseeded and finely chopped (or if you want extra fire in your curry leave seeds in)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala. (I couldn’t get any of this so I used red curry powder)
1 14 ounce can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 beefsteak tomato cut into wedges
1 cup cream (substitute yogurt if you want a lighter dish)
Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish. (Personally, I don’t like cilantro so I used parsley, fresh from my pot of herbs).
2 cups basmati rice, cooked according to package dierections.

1. Pre-heat grill to medium-high.
2. Thread chicken onto skewers, lay them on a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, and refrigerate until required. Discard marinade.
3. In a large, deep-sided skillet melt butter over a medium heat, add garlic and jalapenos and sauté for 1 minute.
4. Stir in coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala, canned tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. While sauce simmers, put chicken skewers laid on foil on the grill and cook for 15 minutes.
6. Add cream and chicken to sauce and stir well, simmer for a further 10 minutes.
7. Garnish curry with cilantro and serve with hot, cooked basmati rice and naan bread.

I wasn’t too happy with the naan, I need to perfect it a bit, so I won’t be posting that recipe yet.