Homemade Ranch Dressing/Dip

I made this dressing/dip today to go with some of my fried chicken fingers.  I’m always motivated to make food my daughter, her husband, and especially my grandchildren will love, and chicken fingers are a pretty sure bet.  I made some homemade fried chicken fingers and a big fresh salad.  Tonight we’ll slice up the chicken and add it to the salad and drizzle it with this yummy dressing.  And as for the kids, they’ll undoubtedly opt for no salad and dipping their chicken fingers in ketchup.

***

I’m back home and feeling wonderful about the day I spent with my daughter and my grandkids. When my youngest grandson Ezra was savoring his first chicken tender, I said, “Did you know that Safta (that’s me) made these for you?”  He answered so adorably, “No, Safta, I didn’t know that.”  His cuteness is almost too much for me.

When my daughter took her first bite of the chicken dipped in my sauce, she shook her head and said, “Oh, this is so good.”  Her response was worth any effort I expended.

  • 1 cup Fage 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • about 7 chives, minced
  • about 20 grinds black pepper
  • about 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • about 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • about 1/2 teaspoon Litehouse brand freeze dried dill
  • about 5 shakes hot sauce, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup buttermilk (I used Friendship 1.5%)
  • rind of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon

Mix all ingredients together in medium bowl; add more buttermilk if it’s too thick; refrigerator.

5 Ingredient Homemade Beefaroni

I’m always trying new recipes I think my grandkids might like.  I made this simple recipe yesterday.  I was skyping with my son Benji who’s in Vietnam right now.  We were discussing all the different recipes he wants me to make when he gets home in a few weeks. I was showing him pictures of the beefaroni I was cooking and he told me that on the night he gets home from Vietnam, he wants that dish waiting for him.

  • 1 lb. good chop meat (I bought Whole Foods short rib chop meat)
  • 1 28 oz. can organic Cento chunky style crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 medium to large onion chopped
  • about 6-7 garlic cloves chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dried oregano (about 1 teaspoon)
  • about 3/4 lb. of pasta (I used De Cecco wagon wheels)
  • parmesan for serving

Saute onion for a few minutes in about 2 tablespoons olive oil till soft.  Add garlic and saute a few minutes. Add chop meat and brown over low flame.  Add salt and pepper and oregano.  Then add tomatoes and pure.  Break up the chunks of tomatoes with the spoon or spatula you are using to mix.  Cook over medium to low flame about 15-20 min dvakotla.com.ua.  You don’t want to reduce or lose too much of liquid, cause you’ll need it.

Boil your water and cook pasta till al dente.  Drain, and add about 3/4 of the box or pound to the meat sauce.  You’re ready to serve.  If you are serving it later, just heat it up in the microwave, because baking it in oven will dry it out.

Roasted Chicken Pieces with Jewish Spices

This chicken is so easy to make and so delicious!!! And it takes no time at all.  You can use a whole cut up chicken, or just breasts, like I did this time.  I buy my chicken from Whole Foods and it is so fresh and good.

  • chicken breasts
  • kosher salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and a little cayenne (heaviest on the paprika).

Place chicken breasts on baking pan covered with aluminum foil.  Sprinkle both sides with garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, a little salt, very light amount of cayenne, and lots of paprika.

Drizzle tops of chicken breasts with a little light olive oil.

Roast uncovered at 375 degrees for about 40-45 min. till nicely browned. I use my convection roast setting.  Once or twice during the cooking, take out, and baste with drippings.

Baked Penne with Marinara, Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Miniature Meatballs

I wanted to make a baked pasta dish and add my homemade meatballs, so I came up with this very easy recipe.  I was thrilled when my daughter told me how much she loved the dish.  I decided to omit ricotta cheese from the dish, and I was glad.  I thought it came out perfect without it.

Ingredients:

1 lb. penne or ziti, whole wheat or not

1 lb. or a little more of grated mozzarella (I used Whole Foods part skim)

about 1/2 cup grated parmesan

about 1 qt. marinara sauce (I used jarred)

about 1 teaspoon fresh thyme if you happen to have it

a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes, if you like the heat

for the meatballs:

1 lb. grass fed or organic ground beef, 85% fat

about 1/3 cup ketchup

1 large egg

abut 1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs or white ones

kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder

make the meatballs:

In a mixing bowl, gently mix the ground beef, ketchup, 1 egg, about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and the bread crumbs.  I use my hands to mix gently.  Then form little meatballs- a little less than 1 inch in diameter.  Put about 2 tablespoons light olive oil or canola oil in nonstick saute pan and heat.  Gently place meatballs in pan and brown only very lightly on all sides.  Pour marinara sauce in a saucepan, and gently place drained meatballs in sauce.  Add the thyme if using as well as red pepper flakes, and simmer covered over low flame about 10 or 15 min.  Turn heat off.

for the assembly:

Cook pasta in boiling salted water till al dente.  Drain in colander. In 9 by 13 rectangular or oval baking dish, spoon a little sauce in pan to coat bottom.  Put a nice layer of noodles to cover bottom of pan.  Spoon about 1/3 of sauce and meatballs over the noodles.  Sprinkle with parmesan and about 1/3 of grated mozzarella.  Put another 1/3 of noodles on top, 1/3 of sauce and meatballs, parmesan, and 1/3 of mozzarella.  Spread last 1/3 of noodles, the rest of the sauce and meatballs, parmesan, and rest of mozzarella.

Either put in fridge to bake later, or bake right away.  From the fridge, it will take about 1 hour at 375 degrees.  If you are baking it immediately, it might only take 30 minutes for it to get nice and bubbly.

Homemade Applesauce

This is a great recipe for homemade applesauce.  You will think you’re eating baked apples with cinnamon.   I made this for my son and his friends, and they couldn’t get over how much better it was than eating store-bought applesauce.

  • 1 teaspoon good cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (I use Minute Maid lemon juice from concentrate if I don’t have fresh lemons)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths (or Cortland, Honeycrisp, Winesap) (Reserve some of the apple peels)
  • 3  large McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths (or any of the above varieties)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place cut up apples in dutch oven or pyrex baking pan.  Sprinkle apples with the lemon juice, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt, and water.  Add the reserved pieces of apple peel. Mix gently.  Bake for about 45 min.  Mix once or twice during the cooking.  After the 45 minutes, cook a little longer if aren’t soft enough.  When apples are soft enough, take a potato masher just to mash the bigger pieces a little.  There should be a little texture to this apple sauce.  If you wish, you can take out any pieces of apple peel, but they may have pretty much dissolved.  Refrigerate or serve warm.

Amazing, Incredible Irish Soda Bread

This is the most perfect Irish soda bread imaginable.  My son Danny’s friends couldn’t get over how great it was.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour (I use organic unbleached flour, preferably King Arthur or Whole Foods brand)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (I use aluminum free)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, from the fridge is fine
2 eggs (1 extra large for the bread;  the other can be any size egg to be mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, half and half, or light cream for brushing on top of the bread before baking)
3/4 cup buttermilk (I usually use Friendship, which is 1.5%)
1/3 cup raisins (I try to use the most amazing raisins, which I get at Whole Foods (they are Sunview Organically Grown Black Seedless)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking powder, baking  soda, and salt. Cut butter with a knife into cubes, and add to bowl.  Cut in butter with pastry blender until crumbly.  Then take the raisins (if you are using the ones mentioned above, you’ll want to chop them up just a bit because they are larger than normal raisins) and add them to the flour mixture. In a small bowl, combine the one extra large egg with buttermilk and then pour into flour and butter mixture.  Fold the wet ingredients into the flour mixture just until moistened.  Take a piece of waxed paper and sprinkle a little flour on it.  Dump your dough onto the paper, and sprinkle just about 1 teaspoon of flour on top of it.  Gently knead 1 or 2 times.   Knead on a well-floured surface with just 2 or three motions.  You don’t want to overwork the dough.  Grease a cookie sheet with butter, and take the dough onto the cookie sheet, and shape it into a round loaf about 10 inches in diameter.  With a knife, make a X indentation in the loaf.  Mix the Shape dough into a round loag; place on a greased baking sheet. Cut a 1/4″-deep cross in the top of the loaf. Brush egg wash over loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  You will know the loaf is done when you put a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean.

Serve right out of oven with butter.  Or eat later and heat up in microwave or in toaster.

Apple, Strawberry, Lettuce, Peppers, Red Onion, Cucumber Salad

This is a light, fresh, citrusy salad that’s great in any season.

  • a combination of romaine, green leaf, and baby spinach
  • peeled cucumber , cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
  • about 2 slices of red onion, cut into small pieces
  • about 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 5-7 sliced strawberries
  • 1 apple cut into bite sized pieces
  • a handful of broken by hand Whole Foods Sea Salt Pita Chips

citrus vinaigrette

  • 1 lemon juiced  (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons country Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Easy Mac and Cheese

I had read a recipe in the NY Times for a Crusty Macaroni and Cheese.  I was having some company, and I decided to give it a try.  It’s very simple to make as you don’t make a white sauce or a roux.

The consensus was that it was very good, but not quite as creamy as my regular recipe.  But I liked it a lot, and I’ll definitely make it again.

Adapted from the New York Times Jan. 4, 2006

(The quantities are slightly changed from original recipe)

 

Recipe: Crusty Macaroni and Cheese

3 tablespoons butter (I used unsalted)

12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (I used an extra 3 oz. for the top)

16 ounces American cheese coarsely grated (mine was just sliced thin from the deli, and then broken into smallish pieces)

1 pound elbow pasta, boiled in salted water until just tender, drained, and rinsed under cold water
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional) (I used 1 teaspoon black pepper instead)
Salt (I used 2 light teaspoons of kosher salt)
2/3 cup whole milk

 

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Combine grated cheeses and set aside three heaping cups for topping.

2. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta, cheeses, pepper, and salt to taste. Place in prepared pan and evenly pour milk over surface. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until crusty on top and bottom.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

Greek Pasta Salad

I took my homemade dressing which has a Greek vinaigrette taste, and I added some pasta, and some veggies to create a pasta salad that tastes similar to a Greek salad.

It’s a little heartier than just a salad, and it makes a great leftover lunch.

For the dressing:

  • juice from 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ cup olive oil (I use a combination of light and extra virgin)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sun dried tomatoes (in oil) minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated

In a mixing bowl, whisk the lemon juice, the oregano, the salt, the pepper, the red pepper flakes, the optional sun-dried tomatoes, the lemon zest, and the garlic. Then add the oil slowly as you continue to whisk. You can make this earlier in the day, and put it in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Then when you are ready to use it, give it a few good shakes, and pour it over the salad right before you serve the salad.

for the pasta salad:

12 oz. rotelle or penne

1 1/2 greenhouse cucumbers, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

about 12 kalamata pitted olives, cut in half

a few slices of red onion, diced

1-2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half

about 1 lb. of good feta, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

Cook the pasta till al dente.  Run under cool water.  Place in large serving bowl, and add all the veggies.  Then pour vinaigrette over salad and mix.  Put in fridge until ready to serve.

New Blueberry Muffins

I’ve been wanting  a muffin that’s bigger and tastes more like a bakery muffin.  This is what I came up with. They are fluffy, perfectly sweet, and a little lemony.  These take a little more effort than my original blueberry muffins, and although I do like these, I’m still stuck on my originals.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 heavy cups blueberries dusted with flour
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 scant cup sugar
  • about 1 teaspoon lemon zest (zest from maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of one lemon)
  • optional sugar for sprinkling on muffins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 385 degrees.  Put paper muffin cups in standard 12 muffin tin.  (This makes about 16 muffins though, so you’ll need 2 muffin tins.)

In large mixing bowl, put flour, powder, soda, and salt, and mix gently.  In second bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, yogurt, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients into dry.  Gently fold dry into wet.  When about 1/2 way folded in, add the blueberries, and continue to fold flour and berries in just until you don’t see any more flour.  Use an ice cream scoop to scoop the batter into muffin cups.  Cups will be filled almost to the top.

Bake at 385 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Then reduce the temperature to 350.  Bake about 30-40 minutes until tops are nicely browned but not burnt, and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks.  Sprinkle with sugar after muffins come out of muffin for that professional look.