Realistic Cooking Ideas

for Busy People! And sharing our life adventures along the way!

Gardens

Back in November I started a series of posting pictures on different benches I took pictures of during our summer adventures. I did one posting last year and then a huge November storm hit us and quite honestly I forgot about the series until now! For Part 1 of this series, click here. After such a harsh winter I really enjoy looking at these pictures and all the wonderful memories they bring. We are planning new adventures for this summer and I will continue to share different pictures from our part of the world! I must admit my love for benches and older the better. It makes one wonder who sat on those benches; what were their dreams and thoughts; was their view the same as mine or how was it different. The benches we saw were in stately, beautiful gardens and others were tucked away in the woods during our hikes. They all are beautiful in their own way and tell a story. I hope you enjoy this series as much as I do!!

Bench Beaver Disc golf

Benches 1

Benches 2

Benches 3

Iroquois bench 1

Iroquois bench 2

Iroquois bench 3

Linguini Primavera with Baby Spring Vegetables Plated

This wonderful, delicious Linguini Primavera with Fresh Baby Vegetables was part of Greg’s birthday celebration! It is a gourmet meal that is easy to make and the best part it is packed with fresh baby vegetables and herbs! Make a large batch because it warms over nicely the next day. For Christmas I got a Mediterranean Pasta basket and the one pasta was an Italian Spice Linguini, which was used for this dish. Any linguini or similar pasta will work for this dish. The below picture is how I served it in a warming dish on low heat. Top it with additional fresh herbs, Parmigiano Reggiano, and roasted pine nuts. If you don’t like pine nuts or cannot find them – a substitute would need to have a sweet, subtle flavor while adding the gourmet touch to the final dish.

Linguini Primavera with Baby Spring Vegetables in a serving platter

The below pictures show how the dish was assembled through layering of the ingredients. Start by simmering the vegetables in butter. Yes butter! Sometimes we cannot worry about substitutes and it makes several servings! And don’t those fresh baby vegetables look wonderful! Be sure to select your favorites and be generous with your measurements!

Linguini Primavera with Baby Spring Vegetables in a skillet with initial vegetables

At this point the heavy cream, peas, and cheese is added.
Linguini Primavera with Baby Spring Vegetables in a skillet with heavy cream and peas

Wonderful fresh herbs are added! My selection was basil and parsley – feel free to experiment.
Linguini Primavera with Baby Spring Vegetables in a skillet with added fresh herbs

Blend all the ingredients together before adding the cooked pasta.
Linguini Primavera with Baby Spring Vegetables in a skillet

Then serve with Roasted Lemon Rosemary Balsamic Chicken with a Pan Sauce and you have a gourmet meal for a birthday celebration! Both dishes were awesome and I was disappointed when the left overs were gone. What a wonderful treat to come home to after working all day.
Linguini Primavera with Baby Spring Vegetables Plated 2

Ingredients:
12 oz. Italian Spice Linguini
4 to 6 tbsp. Butter
4 cups Thinly Sliced Mixed Baby Vegetables: baby carrots, baby leeks, baby zucchini, and sugar snap peas
1 cup Frozen Sweet Peas, thawed
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup Chopped Fresh Herbs: Basil and Parsley
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Topping Ingredients:
Chopped Fresh Herbs: Basil and Parsley
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup Toasted Pine Nuts

Preparation:
Boil Linguini in a large pot of salted water. While the pasta is cooking, scoop out about 1-1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water and put aside.

In a large skillet (large enough to hold the vegetables and cooked linguini) melt the butter. Add the sliced vegetables, cover and simmer until tender. Add the heavy cream, peas, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Stir in the herbs. If while simmering the sauce it becomes too thick, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water.

When the linguini is tender, drain and add to the vegetables and cream sauce. Then season the linguini primavera with salt and pepper. When serving top with additional fresh herbs, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and the toasted pine nuts.

Roasted Lemon Rosemary Balsamic Chicken Plated 2

For Greg’s birthday I made a Rosemary Balsamic Chicken that was adapted by this recipe. I added more fresh rosemary and lemons to enhance the flavors of this wonderful recipe! This is one of those dishes you cannot stop eating! It is easy to make and just requires a bit of planning to marinade the chicken the night before. Be sure to make extras for leftovers.

The amount of marinade you make is based upon how many chicken breasts and how much sauce you enjoy with your meal. Be generous with the fresh rosemary sprigs since it adds a lot of flavor. When baking the chicken your kitchen will be filled with the wonderful rosemary aroma! Also add a ton of lemons when baking – not only does it look pretty it is needed for additional flavor. I used at least one large lemon when baking and then serving – I prepared several lemons so the exact measurement is unknown. The below picture shows the amount of lemons and rosemary sprigs added before baking. Be generous!

Roasted Lemon Rosemary Balsamic Chicken before going into the oven

I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to the same width. The chicken was in the marinade for about 20-hours; baked for 30-minutes and was perfectly moist and flavorful with the rosemary and lemon!

For the pan sauce you have different options. The reserved marinade could be added to the pan when roasting the chicken and then carefully poured into a saucepan to thicken. Another option is to use a portion of the reserved marinade to roast the chicken adding the remaining marinade to a saucepan. Then carefully add the sauce from the roasting pan to the saucepan on the stovetop to finish. I did not want the chicken to get cold so while finishing the sauce and side dishes, the chicken was placed in a warming dish on a very low heat.

Roasted Lemon Rosemary Balsamic Chicken in serving pan

After placing the chicken in the warming dish, the pan sauce was drizzled over introducing more wonderful flavors!

Roasted Lemon Rosemary Balsamic Chicken in serving pan with sauce

Plate the dish with a lemon and rosemary sprig! If there are leftovers remove the rosemary sprigs since once cooked the needles will start to fall off and mix through the chicken and sauce.
Roasted Lemon Rosemary Balsamic Chicken Plated

Marinade Ingredients:
Kosher salt
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2/3 cup good Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 – 3 Fresh Rosemary sprigs

Chicken Ingredients:
6 – 8 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
6 to 8 Fresh Rosemary sprigs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 Large Lemons, thinly sliced
at least 1 to 2 slices per chicken breast and more for serving

Overnight Chicken Preparation:
Wash, dry, and pound the chicken. Mix together the marinade ingredients – except for fresh rosemary sprigs. Place chicken in a sealable bag and add about a third of the marinade, add fresh rosemary sprigs and place in the refrigerator overnight and up to 24-hours. Refrigerate the remaining marinade.

Baking the Chicken Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator while the oven is preheating. Use the appropriate baking dishes depending upon the amount of chicken to bake. Add the chicken and some of the reserved marinade plus the fresh rosemary sprigs and fresh lemon slices. Bake uncovered for about 25 to 30-minutes depending upon the size and type of chicken you are baking.

For the pan sauce you have different options. The reserved marinade could be added to the pan when roasting the chicken and then carefully poured into a saucepan to thicken. Another option is to use a portion of the reserved marinade to roast the chicken adding the remaining marinade to a saucepan. Then carefully add the sauce from the roasting pan to the saucepan on the stovetop to finish. I did not want the chicken to get cold so while finishing the sauce and side dishes, the chicken was placed in a warming dish on a very low heat.

Plate the chicken with both the baked and fresh rosemary sprigs, lemon slices, and pan sauce! Serve with a full-bodied red wine!

Slushy Strawberry Cheese Cake Plated

I made this wonderful dessert for Greg’s birthday. It reminds me of the desserts my mother made in our younger days with Graham Crackers, bananas, and whipped cream. Today there are different flavors of Graham Crackers so this recipe included both the original and chocolate versions. Mine came out more on the slushy and light side – but delicious! Another option is to add cream cheese blended with some milk – I would imagine this would firm it up a bit. It is a yummy easy to make dessert and with a large pan you can have plenty of left overs!!

Slushy Strawberry Cheese Cake Birthday Plates 2

Over the next couple of weeks I will share the other new recipes that I made for Greg’s birthday that included appetizers and the main meal! We started with a delicious lemony goat cheese and chives turnovers hot out of the oven, a curry chicken salad severed over crackers or crusty bread, and for the main course Linguini Primavera With Fresh Baby Vegetables and a fantastic Roasted Lemon Rosemary Balsamic Chicken
with a Pan Sauce
! It was shut the kitchen door good! It is always fun to try out new recipes on special occasions. The last few weeks have been rather hectic at work and then last weekend I was at the annual Just Joy Women’s conference that I attend each year. The weather is finally getting nicer in Buffalo with the spring flowers in bloom and some warmer weather to take an evening walk – with a light jacket of course!

Slushy Strawberry Cheese Cake

Slushy Strawberry Cheese Cake Closeup

Slushy Strawberry Cheese Cake in the pan after serving

Slushy Strawberry Cheese Cake Birthday Plates

Ingredients:
2 pounds Strawberries
Graham Crackers (chocolate and original)
2 3.4 ounces Instant Cheesecake Flavored Pudding
3 cups Milk, skim
3 cups Whipped Cream, light, thawed

Topping:
Crushed Chocolate and Original Graham Crackers
Additional sliced strawberries for topping
Fresh Mint

Optional:
1 8-ounce package of Cream Cheese, Light
Milk, skim

Preparation:
Wash, dry and slice the strawberries. Line your serving dish with graham crackers. Add a layer of strawberries. Mix together the instant cheesecake flavored pudding with the milk for 2-minutes or as directed on the package. If desired blend together cream cheese with some milk and add to the pudding mixture. Fold in the whipped cream.

Layer half of the cheesecake mixture in the serving dish. Add another layer of graham crackers and strawberries. Add the remaining cheesecake mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving add crushed chocolate and original graham crackers and strawberries. Serve with fresh mint.

Super Bowl Cast Iron Skillet Authentic Buffalo Wing Pizza Close up Picture

After a long harsh winter, it is finally spring! Yes it is a bit rainy and damp – but at least it is not snowing! This time of year is still a good time for comfort-food! And pizza is on the top of my list for comfort food! I have a few more cast iron skillet pizza recipes to post – this version I made as part of our Super Bowl weekend – but it would be delicious at any time! In Buffalo chicken wings are very popular but they are not too good for you from a health perspective. This is a great alternative since the chicken is not deep-fried but yet is shaken in the wonderful original Buffalo wing sauce! There is no other wing sauce for me except the Original Anchor Bar sauce. The Anchor Bar, located in Buffalo, original owners are typically given credit with making chicken wings popular! Click here to go to the Anchor Bar website. Click here for an article with a bit more history about chicken wings!

Super Bowl Cast Iron Skillet Authentic Buffalo Wing Pizza Topped close up 3

I love using the Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce instead of the traditional pizza sauce. Use whatever heat you like and consider serving extra wing sauce and blue cheese sauce on the side. Or better yet drizzle more wing sauce or blue cheese sauce on the pizza once it comes out of the oven! With this pizza there is no need to serve carrots and celery on the side since it is part of the pizza! This version is fun to make and even more fun to eat!

Super Bowl Cast Iron Skillet Authentic Buffalo Wing Pizza Close up Picture 2

Below are a few pictures of assembling this pizza. I start with a pre-made whole wheat pizza dough from Wegmans (our local grocery store) to save a bit of time. Since the dough is kept in the refrigerator, just leave it at room temperature for about 30-minute to rise. The warmer the dough the easier it is to form to the cast iron skillet. Then layer on the ingredients and go heavy on the carrots and celery!

Super Bowl Cast Iron Skillet Authentic Buffalo Wing Pizza Topped with celery and carrots

Super Bowl Cast Iron Skillet Authentic Buffalo Wing Pizza Topped with Carrots celery and chicken

Super Bowl Cast Iron Skillet Authentic Buffalo Wing Pizza Topped with Cheese

Super Bowl Cast Iron Skillet Authentic Buffalo Wing Pizza Out of the Oven

Ingredients
10-inch Cast Iron Skillet
¼ cup Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce
½ cup Carrots, sliced thin
½ cup Celery, sliced thin
4 ounces Cooked Chicken, cubed
⅓ to ⅔ cup Mixed Pizza Cheese, shredded
Crumbled Blue Cheese for garnish
Whole Wheat Pizza dough – 14 ounces

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season the cast iron skillet. Roll out pizza dough into desired size and place in the cast iron skillet. Let it rest for a few minutes. Add Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce as the sauce. Top with carrots and celery. Shake the cooked chicken in Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce and add to the pizza. Top with mixed pizza cheese. Bake for about 20 to 25-minutes.

Top with crumbled blue cheese as the garnish and serve with extra blue cheese and Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce to dip your pizza in!

Indian Chicken Curry Soup with carrots as a garnish

Are you living in a cold climate experiencing bitter cold temps or experiencing rainy damp days? Do you come home after being outside trying to get warm? Give this delicious soup a chance – it has a nice level of spices and heat! A few years ago, I made a similar recipe – click here for recipe. My first experience tasting this fantastic soup was in New Hampshire and it quickly became one of my favorites. Every night I ordered this soup asking the server the ingredients allowing me to take quick notes. Then much research was conducted to figure out a recipe. A soup with cashews and pistachios! Doesn’t get much better.

Indian Chicken Curry Soup - spoon of soup from pot of soup

At work we had a chili and soup cook-off and I brought this soup with some minor changes from the original. A co-worker, Priya provided a few tips to make it even better. To thicken the broth, puree the cashews and save a few for garnish. Determine if you want a thin broth or a thicker soup to identify how much chicken broth to add. A thicker soup could be served over rice.

Indian Chicken Curry Soup Pot of soup

For the chicken marinade I use chili powder (red chili powder will add more heat). Another option is to use a food processor to make a paste using a hot chili pepper. For less heat deseed the hot chili pepper. Most likely I will stick with the chili powder but if you try a chili pepper let me know how it comes out!

Indian Chicken Curry Soup close up of spoon of soup 2

The spices are really approximate. If you are unsure of their flavor and heat, use them sparingly and perform a taste test. This soup should have some heat to it. Ideally the heat comes on after you do your taste test. If adding more chicken broth when rewarming the soup add more curry and chili powder. Be sure to use fresh ginger – not ginger powder. It takes a few minutes to grate it into a paste but it is worth the time. If that is too much work, consider purchasing ginger paste.

Indian Chicken Curry Soup close up of a spoon of soup

There is coconut milk and coconut cream – sweetened and unsweetened. Sweetened is nice to offset the heat. Try to get the coconut cream (full fat) to drizzle on top of the soup when serving. I tried a low-fat version and it is too watery as a topping. For this version, I bought coconut milk, which is fine to add to the soup but cannot be used as a topping.

Indian Chicken Curry Soup in a bowl close up

This soup is just fantastic with a ton of flavor but a challenge to take photos. Try to garnish with cilantro and consider shredding a carrot to add more nice color. Enjoy the experience of this delicious soup!!

Indian Chicken Curry Soup closeup in pot

Ingredients
2 Large Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (about 2 ½ cups)

Chicken Marinade
2 tbsp Chili Powder (red for more heat) or chili ginger paste
1 to 2 tbsp Ginger, freshly grated into a paste (or purchase ginger paste)
1 tbsp Garlic, minced
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp Salt
Grapeseed – a little to cook the chicken
Marinade chicken for at least 3-hours

Soup Ingredients
1 Large Sweet Onion, chopped
1 cup Carrots, chopped or diced
½ cup Red Bell Pepper, chopped
½ cup Celery Stalks – tender pieces, chopped
1 Large or 2 Small Tart Apples, peeled, core, and diced
1 tbsp Grapeseed Oil

Spices
1 tbsp Curry Powder
¼ tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground
¼ tsp Cloves
½ tsp Cumin
½ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Ground Cardamom
1 tbsp Chili Powder

Liquids
4 cups Chicken Broth, low sodium
½ cup Coconut Milk, optional

Nuts Ingredients
1/2 cup Cashews, Raw
1/2 cup Pistachios, No Salt

Remaining Ingredients
½ cup Cilantro, chopped

Garnish
Chopped cashews
Coconut Cream
Cilantro
Shredded carrots

Marinade Preparation
Wash and cube your chicken into bite size pieces. Mix your marinade ingredients. It should be a thick paste. If it is too dry, add a little grapeseed oil, I like to use grapeseed oil infused with lemon. Marinade for at least 3-hours.

Cook the chicken in a little grapeseed oil. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock to get all the wonderful marinade that remains baked on the pan.

Soup Preparation
Heat the Olive Oil in your soup pan and add onions – cook until soft. Then add the remaining ingredients, except for the chopped apples, and simmer for about 5-minutes.

Spice Preparation
Always be sure to add your curry powder at the beginning of your cooking as the heat does increase the aroma. Typically you use ¼ tsp for 2 servings – but as you can see, I like to add a lot more than that!

Nutmeg and cloves are also used sparingly and since I added a lot of curry powder to this recipe I used less of them. Cloves are typically added at the beginning of cooking as the heat creates more flavor. Nutmeg is typically added near the end of cooking so you could add this ingredient later in cooking if you prefer. Plus more salt might be needed to take a few taste tests throughout making this soup.

If you are uncomfortable with these spices then add maybe half of them as you can always add more. But remember this soup should have a lot of flavor! Add the spices to the soup and blend well. Stir well and cook for about a minute. Add your chicken broth and bring to boil. Then simmer for about 30-minutes.

Nuts Preparation
Puree the cashews in a food processor to make a cashew paste and add to the soup to thicken the broth. Add the pistachios near the end of cooking for them to soften. Also add a handful of roughly chopped cashews to the soup for additional flavor or use as a garnish.

You add cilantro at the end of cooking since prolonged heat reduces its flavor. When you are almost ready to serve add your cilantro and heat through. I would also lower the heat to a simmer at this point. Cilantro mixes nicely with curry powder, nuts, and lemon juice so it is perfect for this dish! It has a faint licorice flavor.

I like to ladle my soup into a bowl and then drizzle a little coconut cream and then enjoy the experience!

Strawberry and Blueberry Chocolate Shortcake with Reduced Balsamic Glaze close up picture

Many of us enjoy our desserts but need to watch our calories – this Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake is a perfect solution! And in my opinion, a dessert that is topped with a healthy serving of fruit – has to be great! This Chocolate Shortcake provides the perfect base providing different opportunities for toppings.

Strawberry and Blueberry Chocolate Shortcake with Reduced Balsamic Glaze dual plated

My preference is a mixture of strawberries and blueberries; however you could add other berries such as raspberries. A reduced balsamic glaze is just perfect with berries!! It drizzles beautifully on the plate and is just delicious so be sure to make enough. If you are like me there is always an extra serving of fruit that tends to take over the chocolate shortcake.

Strawberry and Blueberry Chocolate Shortcake with Reduced Balsamic Glaze birthday celebration 2

For toppings, there are so many options in addition to how I assemble the shortcake. A bit of whipped cream (from the can or homemade) is a nice touch on the side – elegant like an expensive restaurant. Topped with a nice piece of mint, which is delightful to the taste buds. If you have a dark chocolate bar, sprinkle some shavings over the plate – it looks wonderful especially on the whipped cream.

It looks nice on a white plate allowing all the colors and ingredients to be showcased.

Strawberry and Blueberry Chocolate Shortcake with Reduced Balsamic Glaze on a white plate

The best option, however, is a darker dinner plate for presenting this beautiful dessert! There is more room for the fruit, whipped cream, and the balsamic glaze. And as mentioned earlier, I like a lot of fruit!!

Strawberry and Blueberry Chocolate Shortcake with Reduced Balsamic Glaze on a dinner plate

It also works well as a birthday or other celebration as you can line up the plates in multiple rows and it looks so nice!

Strawberry and Blueberry Chocolate Shortcake with Reduced Balsamic Glaze birthday celebration

Shortcake Dry Ingredients
2 cups flour
⅓ cup and 1 tbsp sugar
⅓ cup and 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Wet and Chocolate Ingredients
½ cup unsalted butter very cold, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
7-ounces dark chocolate chunks
2/3 cup plain yogurt
About ⅔ cup skim milk

Topping Before Baking (optional)
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp sugar

Balsamic Glaze
1 cup of good Balsamic Vinegar
2 tbsp Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar

Topping Ingredients
Strawberries, sliced
Blueberries
Whipped Cream
Grated Dark Chocolate
Mint for garnish

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse several times to combine ingredients. Add butter and pulse for a few seconds until the butter is incorporated into small pebbles. Place this mixture into a bowl and stir in chocolate chips. Add the yogurt and milk then stir until just combined. You may need to only add some of the milk since you do not want the dough too wet.
  • Prepare a board and your hands with flour and then by using your hands take about ⅓ of the dough and pat it into a 1-inch thick square. Cut into desired shapes and sizes – a heart cookie cutter would be nice!
  • I used a 3-inch round juice glass to cut out the shortcakes for about 16 to 18 and place on the prepared baking pan. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter and sprinkle on the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  • Bake the shortcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out without any batter on it for about 15-minutes.
  • While the shortcakes are baking prepare your balsamic dressing by placing balsamic vinegar in a pan with some brown sugar or maple syrup. Bring to a slow boil and reduce to desired thickness. The amount of brown sugar or maple syrup you add depends upon thickness and sweetness. I find it best to carefully take a few taste tests (it will be hot) to determine how much brown sugar or maple syrup to add.
  • The Chocolate Shortcakes can be served warm or at room temperature. Add your toppings that you enjoy and serve!
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