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Full Dinner Menu: Hearty Tomato Soup and a Couple of Awesome Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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Awesome Photo by JeffreyW

This is one of my favorite menus, perfect for a chilly week.

For a different take on grilled cheese, JeffreyW makes Inside Out Grilled Cheese here.

This not your mom’s canned soup or grilled cheese.  These are tasty, hearty and easy to whip up.  And the flax cookies are addictive (I can say this because it’s a friend’s recipe).  On the board tonight:

  1. Hearty Tomato Soup
  2. Totally Awesome Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  3. Flax Cookies

Hearty Tomato Soup

  • 28 oz canned tomatoes*
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 8 oz carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions, including greens
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour

2 quart saucepan

In a blender, mix tomatoes, garlic, carrots, celery & onions. Blend until liquid. In saucepan, combine tomato mixture with spices, heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let bubble (don’t let boil or use high heat, it will scorch) for 5 minutes. Add flour to cold milk, blend until smooth, add to soup. Let bubble again, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

* This is the time to use up any left over garden tomatoes, instead of canned. Blend until you have 4 cups of crushed tomatoes.

Totally Awesome Grilled Cheese

For each sandwich:

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (or favorite firm bread)
  • Enough favorite cheese (Velveeta, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, etc.  to cover bread (about 3 slices)
  • Sliced Jalapeños (if you want some heat)
  • 1 large slice of tomato w/dash of salt
  • 1-2 tsp Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • Butter
  • Spray Oil

Spread salad dressing on both slices of bread and add ½ of the cheese to one slice of bread, place tomato & jalapenos on the cheese and top with remaining cheese and the other slice of bread, this keeps bread from getting soggy from the tomato. Lightly butter outside of both sides of the sandwich and grill in skillet sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled on medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. While it is grilling, press down hard with a spatula, “squishing” the sandwich. We don’t know why, but this makes them taste better.  :-)

Flax Cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup ground flax
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped almonds

Bowl & cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter and sugar, add egg, vanilla and beat well. Combine dry ingredients together and then fold into egg mixture until well blended. Mix in almonds and drop by the spoonful onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden, don’t let them brown.

Shopping List:

  • 28 oz canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes (4-6 large)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 8 oz carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions
  • 8 slices whole wheat bread (or favorite firm bread)
  • 8 – 10 oz favorite cheese (Velveeta, cheddar, Monterey Jack, etc)
  • 1- 2 Jalapenos or 2 oz pickled Jalapenos
  • 1 large tomato for slicing
  • Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 2 sticks + butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground flax

Also: crushed garlic, basil, oregano, pepper, whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, oil spray

Originally posted October 2009


Posole Pr0n

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Friday Recipe Exchange: A Dash Less Salt

Cranberry Chicken 3_Snapseed2

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had requests to pull together some of my recipes that go easy on the salt. I found quite a few and this week lemon made the biggest appearance, but tonight’s featured recipes bring in a whole host of other flavors that make it easier to go lighter on the salt.

Reducing salt with out losing flavor can be managed with several steps. First of all, try to use fresh foods whenever possible.  If you begin to read labels you’ll see many packaged foods contain extra fat, salt & sugar that you wouldn’t add if you prepared it fresh. And good, fresh ingredients bring their own flavors to a dish.

When you need to buy something, such as canned tomatoes or frozen vegetables, go with the no-salt version whenever possible. Then you can be in control of the sodium.

Adding flavors that enhance a dish is the key to cutting back on salt. Wine vinegars (especially on potatoes and meats), lemon juice (great for fish, vegetables and chicken), limejuice, and different spice mixes, including peppers, garlic, basil, rosemary, celery seeds, dill, toasted sesame seeds and citrus zest – go wild, try something new, you might surprise yourself – can transform a dish.  You can also buy prepackaged spice mixes to shake on, just make sure to read the label looking for sodium content.

With all that in mind, I went searching through my recipes to find ones that used a dash less salt.

I started the week with Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Chicken and Spinach, recipe here.

This week’s dinner menu (pictured at top) is Cranberry Chicken and Lemon Cheese Cauliflower, click here for menu, recipes and shopping list.

JeffreyW makes a flavorful Shrimp,Ham and Kale in Garlic Lemon Sauce, recipe here.

And finally, click here for Grilled Lemon Salmon with Corn Pepper Relish.

For the pet lovers, lots of pictures of Bixby in the next Bixby Diaries installment here.

How about you, what do you use to spice up a dish? What’s on the menu this weekend?

Tonight I’m featuring a few recipes that bring in some sweet and spicy flavors. These beans and rice are a nice change-up from the standard Wash Day Beans and Rice I usually make.

Caribbean Jerk Beans & Rice

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, sliced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean boneless pork, cubed in large pieces
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste (this is a good recipe to substitute white wine vinegar for salt)
  • pepper to taste
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 tsp Caribbean jerk spice (you can buy it or make your own, recipe below)
  • ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro (Italian parsley works well in this recipe if you aren’t a fan of cilantro)
  • 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (or substitute dry beans, soaked and cooked)

saucepan & skillet

Add water & rice to saucepan, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Heat oil in skillet, add pork and brown on all sides for 5 minutes, add onion, celery, pepper & garlic, sauté for additional 5 minutes. Add tomatoes & spices. Let simmer 15 minutes, add cilantro, black beans and simmer additional 5 minutes, until beans are heated through. Add cooked rice & mix thoroughly.

Caribbean Jerk Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 4 teaspoons crushed dry thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blend together and store tightly covered (I keep old spice jars around for mixtures like this)

Orange-Mango Coleslaw

  • 8 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1-1/2 large mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
  • ½ medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine cabbage, mangoes, bell peppers, green onions and cilantro in large bowl; stir gently to mix. Add Orange-Mango Dressing; toss gently to coat. Serve, or store in refrigerator up to 1 day.

Orange-Mango Dressing

  • ½ mango, peeled, pitted and cubed
  • 6 ounces plain nonfat yogurt
  • ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate (not diluted with water)
  • 3 tablespoons limejuice
  • ½ to 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and rough chopped
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger (substitute 1/2 tsp ground ginger if desired)

Place mango in food processor; process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; process until smooth.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara


Grilled Lemon Salmon with Corn Pepper Relish

This is a great recipe and you can cook it on the grill or indoors in the oven.  Add baked potatoes or rice and fresh greens from the garden for a nice summer meal.  Serves 4.

Grilled Lemon Salmon:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 4 – 6 oz skinless salmon fillets

zip-lock bag

Add ingredients to bag and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.  Grill on a clean, oiled grill or use a well oiled grilling pan, or broil in oven in a heavy skillet or broiler.  Cook for 4 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes easily.  Serve with relish.

Corn Pepper Relish:

  • 1 cup cooked corn (or canned, drained)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • ½ red pepper chopped
  • ½ yellow pepper chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp chopped jalapeno
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic


Combine all ingredients and let marinate while salmon cooks.  You can use the remaining peppers in a salad for your next dinner.


Dinner Menu: Chicken Salad and Green Beans in Vinaigrette

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JeffreyW’s Green Bean Salad

You can prepare all of this a day ahead of time for an easy and tasty picnic. And if it’s a party, they’re easy to double.

On the board tonight:

  1. Marinated Chicken Salad
  2. Sub Rolls
  3. Green Bean Salad
  4. Sliced Peaches

Chicken Salad

Chicken: (Marinate overnight)

  • ¼ cup dill juice
  • 3 tbsp Dijon or stone ground mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts

Mix together ingredients and marinate overnight. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Grill or broil chicken and cool completely, then cut into small cubes or run through a food processor.


  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded & chopped
  • ¼ cup salad dressing or mayonnaise (more as needed)
  • 2 tsp Dijon or stone ground mustard


In bowl, mix cubed chicken with ingredients, blending well. Serve on sub rolls.  Serves 6 easily

JeffreyW’s Green Bean Salad (pictured above) – recipe here.

Shopping List:

  • Sub rolls (I like the miniature ones myself)
  • 1 lb fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes
  • white wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • Dill pickles
  • Dijon or stone ground mustard
  • Garlic paste
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 jalapeño
  • Salt & pepper
  • Peaches


Creamy Coconut Shrimp

DSC_0351 (1600x1060)There was a variation of this at the Chinese buffet we frequent.  It was pretty tasty but I didn’t know what to call it and so asked the woman tending the counter.  She named it Coconut Shrimp.  I’ve seen the version of it that has battered shrimp coated with shredded coconut for deep frying but not this creamy version.  A search for “creamy coconut shrimp” found several recipes – after discarding several that mentioned mayonnaise I settled on this one.  I didn’t have amaretto and didn’t want to buy a bottle for the two tablespoons the recipe called for so I subbed in a little almond extract, adding a teaspoon to the coconut sauce mixture.  In another departure I used cooked shrimp instead of raw.  These two things were bad calls in retrospect.  The dish really needed that bit a caramelization from cooking in the amaretto.  That said, it was still an enjoyable meal.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

DSC_0222 (1600x1060)I see this on offer at the Kroger deli pretty often and I’ve bought, and liked it, but it seemed a tad too expensive so I looked for a recipe.  I found this one and used it for a guide.  This one has two  potatoes and the other ingredients are scaled to suit.  I used four slices of bacon and two or three green onions and a handful of a cheddar/Monterey jack mixture left over from another dish.  Use about 2 to 1 sour cream to mayo in a quantity sufficient to lube it all up.  I boiled 6 eggs to make deviled eggs for an additional side and Mrs J suggested adding a couple to the potato salad.  They work fine in there.  I saw a recipe that mentioned baking the mixture until the cheese melts but I went with a cold dish.  Made an excellent side for the roast pork sammich.

Dinner Menu: Grilled Pork Chops w/Peach Chutney



It has been a crazy week. First it began with my birthday plans expanding from an afternoon of fun, to several days of fun (I have awesome friends) to a call from the puppy breeder to hear more about my boy and learned that pick up date had been moved up. Am I ready? No idea. Puppy is a new concept for me. All my other Danes were rescued at 6 months or older, came fully housebroken and with few issues. But I am beyond excited…

Here is a repeat of the very first recipe I posted for Thursday Night Menus years ago.  This recipe was my first time making a chutney and we threw it on pork because that is what we were cooking that night. It was a perfect match. That started the whole peach week idea a year later when peaches were in season again.

Last year, weather and disease limited the peach crop in Colorado, so I didn’t do much peach cooking, but this year looks like a bumper crop. Once I’m done just eating them straight from the ‘peach bowl’ I’ll start cooking with them again.

On the board tonight:

  1. Grilled Pork Chops
  2. Peach Chutney
  3. Green beans in Butter
  4. Couscous

Grilled Pork Chops w/Peach Chutney

  • 4 pork chops, medium thickness
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup Peach Chutney

Mix together garlic, salt, pepper and oil and brush over both sides of chops.  Grill over medium-high coals for 5 to 7 minutes on one side, turn and top with ¼ of chutney on each chop.  Grill additional 5 to 7 minutes, until cooked to desired doneness.  Serve immediately, with additional chutney if desired.

Peach Chutney

  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger or 1 tbsp minced fresh
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • salt to taste

small sauce pan

Add all ingredients to sauce pan, heat to boiling – stirring constantly, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, until slightly thickened.

Shopping list:

  • 4 boneless pork chops (medium thickness)
  • 2 large peaches
  • 4 green onions
  • 4 oz golden raisins
  • 16 oz green beans, or whatever veggie might be fresh from the garden
  • couscous (usually a 6 oz box works fine)

Also: crushed garlic, olive oil, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, ground ginger, chili powder

Summer Slaw

DSC_8194 (1600x1060)We swung by the supermarket deli to pick up some of their fried chicken and a couple of sides – we had been shopping garden centers and were getting hungry with nothing quick to eat in the fridge.  We really didn’t want to go to a burger joint or the Chinese buffet.  Mrs J picked a pair of cold salads while I grabbed a box of chicken.  She opted for a mustard potato salad and something that was labeled as “summer slaw”.

The summer slaw was pretty good, we looked online for a copycat recipe but didn’t find anything that looked close.  It had tomato bits, cabbage, and  green bits that were sliced green onion tops and something else – green bell pepper or maybe cucumber with the skin on.  We went with “both”.  The dressing was thin and white and put me in mind of the dressing I use for the copycat KFC slaw dressing.

I whisked a dollop of mayo with buttermilk and rice vinegar, added Splenda to taste, and celery salt with ground white pepper.  It may not be what the deli used in theirs but it came out pretty good!

Summer Slaw

one small head of cabbage, shredded fine

half of an English cucumber, minced

1/4 cup of minced green bell pepper

two small tomatoes, seeded and chopped small

a small bunch of green onions, thinly sliced tops only


1/4 – 1/2 cup mayo

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup rice vinegar dressing (the flavored stuff)

sugar (Splenda) – go with 1/8 -1/4 cup

celery salt and white pepper to taste

* Just guessing after the fact on the dressing quantities.

Dinner Menu: Ravioli w/ Rosemary Basil Cream Sauce

A little bit of comfort food (at least Ravioli is in my house) for what has been a very cold and busy week. I make fresh pasta for special occasions – my spinach lasagna being one of them. I have only made fresh ravioli once, and once was enough. Much like making my own steamed dumplings, effort vs. reward is definitely unbalanced. Especially when with a little bit of experimentation, you can find really good fresh or frozen ravioli at a reasonable price. I usually stick with the cheese or cheese & spinach ravioli – most of the meat ones I find taste like mystery meat.

On the board tonight:

  1. Ravioli w/ Rosemary Basil Cream Sauce
  2. Tomato-Zucchini Confetti
  3. Tossed Salad
  4. Sorbet or Gelato

Ravioli w/ Rosemary Basil Cream Sauce

  • 1 cup heavy cream*
  • 1 tsp crushed dried rosemary (or one sprig fresh)
  • 4 – 6 fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 20 oz frozen cheese ravioli
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 3 tbsp green onion tops, chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 saucepans

Combine cream & spices in saucepan, bring to a boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat and simmer until reduces to ½ cup, about 15 minutes. Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain and return to pan. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper & cream sauce. Toss. Add scallion tops and parmesan.

*You can absolutely substitute whole or non-fat milk for heavy cream and mix well with 1 tbsp flour

Tomato-Zucchini Confetti

  • 1 tbsp + olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, cubed
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cubed
  • 4 mushrooms, cubed
  • 4 green onions, chopped (set greens aside for Ravioli)
  • 2 tbsp chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed (or 2 tbsp fresh)
  • ½ tsp dried oregano, crushed (or 2 tsp fresh)


Heat 1 tbsp of oil in skillet, add vegetables and garlic, sauté for 2 minutes, add chicken broth and spices, and simmer vegetables until tender. Remove, toss with olive oil and serve.

Shopping List:

  • Tossed Salad fixins
  • Salad Dressing
  • Sorbet or Gelato
  • 8 oz heavy cream or milk
  • 4 – 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 20 oz frozen cheese ravioli
  • 6 oz parmesan cheese
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 4 green onions

Also: rosemary, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil, chicken broth, garlic, basil, oregano

Originally posted December 2009



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