Saturday, March 27, 2010

Not Your Mama's Green Bean Casserole

I brought this to my hubby's family party ONE time (to a bunch of sneers about green bean casserole) and I am now designated to bring it to every family function. I won them over, and they are difficult eaters to please. I swear you will never sneer at green bean casserole again.

2 bags of frozen green beans - I prefer the "fancy" ones or the French cut ones for this.  You can also use the equivalent amount of fresh green beans. 

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 hefty tbsp of kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 small sweet onion - diced finely
1 clove garlic - minced
3 cups of 2% milk - you can use 1% or whole...but skim doesn't work so well.

1 lb of crispy bacon, cooked & drained - I made bacon for my hubby today & had nearly the entire pound I was inspired to make this. I always buy the 3 lb pack at Sam's Club and divide it up into smaller portions and freeze it. It's only about $7.50 for 3 lbs of the lean, thick sliced bacon.

1 bag/container of French Fried Onions

2 cups of shredded cheese - I used 1 cup of mozzarella and 1 cup of colby/jack

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First get the green beans in a colandar and defrost with some warm water. Let them drain REALLY WELL.

On to the white sauce. Just say NO to condensed soup! Yuck!  Get a saucepan on medium heat and add the 3 tbsp of butter, diced onion & garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Let the onions soften for a minute or two.

Now incorporate the flour and cook for a minute.

Slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a boil while stirring pretty constantly.

Season with salt & pepper. It'll need a good amount because you are seasoning A LOT of green beans. Taste it. It should have flavor...even on the salty side a bit.  It should thicken and coat the back of a spoon nicely.

Set aside and grate your cheese. About 2 cups total of shredded cheese.

Assembly time!
Get a large bowl and toss in the well drained thawed green beans. Add in the sauce and about 1 cup of the French fried onions.Then the bacon & cheese.

Use your muscles and really mix together well. Make sure everything is incorporated. Taste it and adjust your seasoning if needed.

Now pour the mixture into a large baking dish and bake at 350 for 40 minutes - covered with foil.

Take out and uncover. Top with the rest of the fried onions and bake for 10 more minutes - so the onions get really crispy.

I served mine with some grilled chicken, since the dish is a bit on the heavy side.

You will never sneer at green bean casserole again. I swear. It's heavenly.

Citrus & Thyme Marinade for Chicken or Pork

I had 1/2 lemon on hand leftover from the souvlaki and an I decided to marinate some chicken for the grill tonight. I never EVER buy marinades. They are super easy to make and use all natural ingredients.   You'll love this one. I always say that if you have fresh herbs available, they are best...but it's March here in Chicagoland and the herbs are not growing yet (well, aside from my chives) - so I used dried thyme in this.

The zest and juice of one orange
The zest and juice of 1/3 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp Thyme, minced
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
about 1/3 cup of olive oil

I like to use a measuring cup so it's easy to pour (I never really measure anything...I use my eyes to measure) - zest the orange first. You can use a fine box grater or a zester if you have one. Just the colorful part of the skin, not the white part (which is bitter) - the zest is so fragrant, my son ran in the kitchen and said "mama, I smell oooooranges!" 

Then slice the orange in half and use a fork (or juice reamer) to get all the juice out of both halves.
Now zest your lemon and squeeze the juice out of about 1/2-1/3 of it.

Now mince your garlic up and put that into the pool with the citrus.

Add in the thyme, salt & pepper.

Now the squirt of dijon (about a tbsp or so) - this helps to emulsify and bring the marinade together along with adding a great kick of flavor.

Whisk it together and then whisk in your olive oil. About 1/3-1/2 cup or so.

Taste it. Does it taste good? It should taste strong because you are flavoring a good amount of meat. It's so fragrant and sweet with the floral flavor of the thyme....Yum!

I had 2 ginormous chicken breasts that I cut in half and then again across it so they would grill more evenly and stay tender. Huge thick chicken breasts are difficult to cook without getting tough or drying out.
Put 'em in a ziplock and pour the marinade over.

Chicken is ready for grilling tonight.

Grill it up after letting it marinate all afternoon...
Serve with some tasty green bean casserole (posted on my blog as well) and dinner is served!  This is so flavorful and juicy. It's really delicious and you know every single ingredient that goes into it. Healthful and tasty!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hot Nacho Dip

Since I'm a bit stressed about my interview tomorrow, I wanted to make something easy for dinner tonight. I had some leftover homemade chili in the freezer and some baked tortilla I opted for nacho dip night!

Take an oven safe dish and layer a can of fat free refried beans in the bottom evenly. If you have chili or taco meat leftover in the freezer, layer that on next. If not, the beans are great on their own. Like 'em spicy? Add some salsa or hot sauce in on top of that. Like olives? Add some on top!  Have some jarred nacho cheese in the fridge? Add a layer of that on too. Then top with some shredded cheese & bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

While it was baking I made some guacamole & shredded some lettuce. Dice some tomatoes or use store bought pico de gallo for the top too. I like to put my sour cream in a ziplock bag & cut off the corner so I can pipe it on in fun MR. NACHO! hahaha! 

Here is the recipe for the guacamole!
2 large avocados

juice of 1 lime (or lemon/lime juice)

1 clove garlic (minced finely)

1 tomato, seeded/drained & diced finely

about 3 tbsp of finely diced red onion (if you dig onions, of course)

Just dice the avocados in their shells (cut in half, twist and "karate chop" the pit with a knife & twist it out) then squeeze them into a medium bowl. Add the garlic & lime/lemon juice + mash up a bit with a fork. Add the onion, tomato & season with salt/pepper to your taste.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce & Tomato/Onion/Cucumber Salad

I would put this up against any Greek restaurant's souvlaki...any day. Out of this world delicious!


- the juice of 1/2 lemon
- about a handful of fresh oregano (finely chopped) - can use dried if fresh not available, but fresh is best.
- 5 cloves of garlic - minced finely
-1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp of salt & ½ tsp of black pepper
- about 1/2 cup of olive oil

2 pork tenderloins - fat trimmed off (you can also use chicken)

Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl & whisk together. Put the meat in a large ziplock & pour in the marinade.  Marinate 2  largely cubed pork tenderloins (or chicken breasts) for AT LEAST 30 minutes. I like to do in the morning so it’s really flavorful by dinnertime.  Skewer on kebobs and grill until golden & cooked through...turning often. It takes about 10-15 minutes on a hot grill.

Tzatziki Sauce
- 1/4 cup English cucumber - grated finely and squeezed as dry as possible
-1cup of plain Greek yogurt (If you can’t find Greek yogurt, use regular plain yogurt & strain thru cheesecloth for an hour or so - you just want it thick. I think even sour cream may substitute OK)
- 2 tbsp of lemon juice
- ½ tsp of salt
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
-the zest of 1 lemon

Just combine all ingredients and let the flavors meld. Great to do a day in advance.

Tomato Salad
- about 1/4 cup of diced cucumber
- 3 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded & chopped
- ¼ cup onion, thinly sliced
-a good squirt of lemon juice
-1 tsp koshersalt & 1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients and toss. DONE!

All that is left to do is assemble everything!  I use whole wheat pitas...get a skillet hot and spray each side of each pita with some cooking spray. Cook about 1-2 minutes on each side then layer on the meat, salad & sauce! It is really spectacular. I promise.