Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cabbage Nests

I finally got around to making Nicole's co-winning Cabbage Nests tonight!

They were absolutely delicious and so easy to whip up before I went into work, then just re-warm in the oven. I love dinners that are forgiving like that!

I made some variations, so below is "my" version:


1/2 head cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup cooked Italian sausage
1/2 cup Prego
1 1/2 sliced zuchinni
1/2 cup shredded mozarella cheese

Beat the 2 eggs in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper, then mix in the cabbage shreds until everything is well coated. Arrange in 4 equal sized "nests" on your baking sheet.

Cut the zuchinni into little half circles, coat lightly in olive oil, and spread in the empty aisles of the baking sheet, between the cabbage.

Bake in a 425° oven for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are roasted and the cabbage is smelling oh-so-delish!

To assemble mine, I spooned maybe 2 Tbsp of Prego over each nest. I didn't want to over-power them with too much sauce, so I kept it really light. Next, I sprinkled over the divided sausage and roasted zuchinni portions. Last, I topped it with cheese!

After I got home from work, I popped these in the oven for a few minutes to come up to temperature, and then under the broiler for some browning.

We each had one and a half and they were so fantastic! The sauce was just a little bit of flavor and moistness, but didn't over-power at all. Somehow, this funky little bundle of ingredients all WORKS like a big plate of Italian goodness.

Thanks again, Nicole! The possibilities are endless, and that's my kind of meal!

Two FYIs

I have a guest post on Maggie's blog today! I found her through 101 Cookbooks and love her blog, so offered to do a guest post! For you very faithful readers, you'll recognize the recipe from way, way back, just a few weeks after I started my blog. But, I love it - so don't mind featuring it again!

Also, thanks to Mark for hosting last week's BSI-eggs! I don't blame him for choosing Ruth's egg roll! As soon as I saw that I was just shocked at the genius and creativity of it! What a great, great way to add eggs to your breakfast, in a healthy and fun way! Ruth was also chosen as the host for this week, and chose Avacadoes!!!! Yum, another great one! So head on over to Ruth's blog, to read more about this great fruit, and what the cool prize is!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pomegranate Muffins & Give-away 3 Winner

First, let me congratulate myself, because this is my 100th post, and I hit a pretty big (for me) milestone in my blog analytics this week! Woo hoo!

Next, I'll congratulate Biz of Biggest Diabetic Loser because she is the winner of Give-away 3, with her guess of 99!!! The correct answer was 101 Froot Loops. There were a few really close guesses, but she was the closest without going over, so the prize is hers! E-mail me at christina at dinneratchristinas dot com with your mailing information and I'll get your prize out to you, Biz! Remember, Dinner at Christina's give-aways are going to be held monthly, on the 23rd, so check back next month for another chance!

Now, onto the recipe! I've been experimenting ysterday and today with a pomegranate muffin, and I think I nailed it. I plan on using these this week for quick breakfasts to grab for work.


1 cup POM juice
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425°. Grease muffin cups (I tried lining with paper first, but they stuck really badly). In a medium bowl, combine juice and oats; let soak for 15 minutes. Stir remaining ingredients into oat mixture and stir until well combined. Spoon batter into muffin wells until they are about 1/2 full. Bake for 20 minutes.

These are really easy to whip up, and you can taste the sweetness of the fruit. The oats disappear, kind of how bread disappears when you make bread pudding. This was kind of shocking to me, because I thought it would be more like a bran muffin, or oatmeal cookie. You could easily disguise the healthy-ness and give them to your kids, without them ever suspecting it has oats in it!

I was going to test a batch substituting the oil for yogurt or applesauce, but have neither on hand currently. The first batch I substituted with the juice, but it was a bit dry, so I think it needs something more moist.

I baked this batch for 22 minutes, and the edges were a bit burned (but still tasted great!), so I'd suggest baking a few minutes less.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

BSI: Egg (Skillet Corn Frittata)

I love, love, love eggs and breakfast! I can eat breakfast morning, noon, or night. Johnny's not such a big egg or breakfast person, but I've slowly worked in some recipes he appreciates. This is one of them!

My mom got me this Pillsbury cookbook of Breakfasts and Lunches for families on the go-go-go! It was only .55¢ at a thrift store, but is packed cover to cover with great, cheap recipes that go together in minutes. Nutritional information for each recipe is listed right below. This comes in at 340 calories, 16 g protein, 21 g carbs for 1/4 of the recipe.

I've made this once before, but we both agreed this second time was a lot better, and it even gave me ideas for alterations in the future.

Easy Skillet Corn Frittata

3 Tbsp margarine or butter
1/4 cup sliced green onions (I used yellow)
12 oz. can Green Giant "Mexicorn" (corn with red and green bell peppers)
6 eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp oregano or basil
dash pepper and salt
1 small tomato, peeled, sliced (peeled?!)
1 small green pepper, cut in rings
1/2 cup shredded Swiss or Cheddar cheese

In an 8 or 9-inch skillet, melt margarine; saute onions until tender. Stir in corn. (I used the Green Giant "Southwestern Corn" that was right next to the "Mexicorn" - basically the same, but it also has black beans!)

In medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, oregano, salt and pepper; mix well. Pour egg mixture over vegetables. Cover; cook over medium-low heat 10 to 12 minutes or until mixture is set (top will remain moist).

Arrange tomato and green pepper on top of cooked egg mixture; sprinkle with cheese. Cover and cook until cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Cut into wedges to serve. 4 servings. (We find it's actually ~3 servings.. but maybe we're just pigs. Oink, oink.)

We each ate about 1/3 of the recipe for a hearty dinner-sized portion. I served alongside a hashbrown patty (cooked in the toaster oven), and some fresh mango slices. Johnny put a little sour cream on his, and I thought salsa might be another good idea. Since I'm not a huge fan of tomatoes, I think the next time I might add some sliced avacado to the top as well!

Fun fact: Whenever I cook a frittata, we spend the entire night singing "Hakuna Frittata" to the tune of The Lion King song. hahaha

Give-away 3 is still going on here (at the bottom of the post) until Sunday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Zucchini and Walnut Stuffed Chicken

I got a little crazy with dinner tonight. Chicken had been thawed, and I wasn't excited about it, so I set the creative wheels turning. Luckily, I went grocery shopping today, so I had a fully stocked kitchen to work with!

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1 small zuchinni, shredded
4 thin sliced chicken breasts
salt, pepper, spices of choice

To begin, I toasted the walnuts in a dry pan. While those were working, I shredded a small zucchini with the small holes of my box grater. It produced about 3/4 cup, but then I squeezed out all of the liquid, and it reduced to about 1/2 cup. Set both aside, but keep the pan - that's what we're going to cook the chicken in.

I layed my 4 chicken breasts out on my cutting board and divided the shredded zucchini and toasted walnuts into 4 piles. First, I smeared the zucchini over the chicken breast, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and some various spices. Next, I put the walnuts. Here's what they looked like - pre-wrap.

I toasted whole walnuts, but really should have chopped them first. I wasn't thinking ahead and with the whole walnuts they were a little hard to wrap and the toothpicks couldn't slide easily through without hitting some walnut obstacles. I just did a loose wrap and threaded the toothpicks in seams to hold it together. I wasn't looking for a complete neat little package, basically I just wanted it held together.

I cut up 2 whole carrots and put them in a small saucepan with 2 cups of vegetable stock. Then, I added 1 cup of quinoa and cooked for 10 minutes, following package directions.

After I finished rolling the chicken, I put them in the previously used pan with a little bit of olive oil, over medium heat. Because I wanted to make sure the chicken was cooked on the inside, I threw a lid on it. Some of the walnuts fell out during cooking, but I think that would be eliminated if they were chopped, not whole.

Because the quinoa took 10 minutes, I cooked the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side. I love when everything can be timed to finish right on top of one another. Sometimes I forget to get something started and end up with a couple minutes to kill, trying to keep something warm, or turning the heat way up to try and hurry something along.

The chicken was really juicy, the walnuts were a good crunch, and the zucchini was full of flavor and I think what kept the chicken moist. I just served with a big spoonful of the carrot quinoa on the side.

The great thing about a dish like this, is that if you like it - you can re-make it over and over, but different each time! I could easily substitute any vegetable or nut I had on hand and the cooking process would be the same, but an entirely different flavor each time. I love adding new twists to existing recipes so I don't tire them out!


Give-aways galore!!!

My give-away is here(at the bottom), and ends Sunday, March 29th.

Missy Maintains' is here, and ends Friday, March 27th.

Julie's is here, and ends Sunday, March 29th.

Laura's is here, and ends at the end of her Spring cleaning spree week!

Monday, March 23, 2009

BSI Winner and Give-away 3!

Every week I read the BSI judge's account of how hard it was to judge. Secretly, I was thinking "surely one had to jump out - you're just softening the blow for the rest of us."

Um, no. It's hard.

Sunday morning I had only 2 entries and I was in a blind panic. 50/50 decision?? I kept flipping back and forth, back and forth. Not to mention, I needed to find the next host and everybody I follow has already been a host! I was freaking out on all kinds of levels. I was so nervous that people would be mad that I killed the BSI competition with the lowest turn-out ever, and that I'd jump the gun and pick a host that also turned out to be the winner in a few hours!

Thankfully, you're all just a bunch of procrastinators (like me)! I had 6 entries roll in with <6 hours to spare.

I opened up each of the recipes in their own tab and read through every word. I let it sit awhile, came back, and did the same. I was still nowhere - so I recruited Johnny's help. We read through them together, again and again. Finally, we both admitted that we had chosen two that stood out - and we both had the same two in mind! They were both great recipes and I kept going back and forth with my decision. It was agony and I didn't know how I was going to choose!

So - I didn't choose! I call an official tie and am going to split the prize.

Congratulations to Marianne and Nicole!

The reason I chose Marianne's is because the story behind is the definition of what food and cooking is to me, personally - what drives me in the kitchen, so I related very strongly to it. The recipe was something both Johnny and I said we would love to try, and definitely could see making in our own kitchen. We love soups!

Nicole's was a truly imaginative way of using cabbage, and again - something we both said we would make in our own kitchen. I was looking for new ways to utilize cabbage and she definitely delivered! I love the Italian spin, because I am Italian myself and hate falling in the rut of plain spaghetti with red sauce. This was a new twist that can be dressed up in many ways!

Winners - email me at christina at dinneratchristinas dot com and let me know if you'd prefer either the Nuts Online pound (with your choice up to $12 and mailing address), or the $10 Amazon giftcard (and which e-mail address you'd like it sent to).

Thank you so much for all of the recipes! I had a blast coming up with the ingredient and picking last night!

Oh! I almost forgot the host! Duh, Christina.

As previously mentioned, Johnny's brother Mark recently started his own blog. Yesterday, at their parents' house - we were discussing the BSI and my lack of new host - so he was officially chosen.

He's an insanely healthy eater and is currently training for some upcoming bike and foot races. Both him, and his wife Kelly, are big foodies - so I know they'll love receiving the recipes and agonizing over who should win!! I hereby hand the contest over to him. Head over to his blog to find out the next BSI! Please keep in mind he's new - so this week is really going to rely on word-of-mouth to spread the news, because he doesn't have that big of a following yet!


Now for another chance to win!

It's the 23rd, so time for Dinner at Christina's monthly give-away on the 23rd!

Up for grabs is a Cooking for Kids cookbook, 5 Skillet Toss mixes, and two sauce mixes.

The packets are all natural, gluten free, and contain no trans fat. If you make some with water instead of oil, they are fat free. They range from 15-40 calories per serving, depending on the packet.

The flavors are: black olive pesto, spicy pasta recipe, garden style recipe, green olive pesto, dried tomato, creamy pesto, and vegetarian turkey gravy.

My parents mailed me a big box with a bunch of these packets, and unfortunately they contain whey, so I can't cook them for dinner. I've cooked a few (and saved a few) for lunches for myself, and they are really delicious and quick. Each has the instructions to make the packet as a skillet toss, but there's also a second recipe to utilize the packet in a different way on the back.

All you have to do is leave a comment with your guess of how many Froot Loops are in this glass! The closest guess, without going over, wins! If there's a tie, the person who commented first will win. Contest ends Sunday, March 29th and I'll announce the winner that night, or Monday. US Residents only, please!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pomegranate Orange Custard Pie

Last minute BSI entries can be emailed to christina at dinneratchristinas dot com! It's not too late - you still have until midnight, tonight!

I'll unveil the winner tomorrow, and it also happens to be the 23rd - which means time for Dinner at Christina's monthly give-away on the 23rd! So, even if you're not the BSI winner - you'll still have a chance at another prize!!


I'm a good, not great, baker when I follow instructions to a tee. I'm not comfortable experimenting and substituting with baking, like with regular cooking. Baking is such a science - getting the ratio of everything right so it's moist, rises, and isn't a dense mass. That's intimidating to me. You also can't fix anything once it goes in the oven - whereas you can always add and alter something on the stovetop.

When I got the pomegranate juice, I decided that fear of baking had to change! I'm going to be making a few attempts at changing existing recipes to be pomegranate friendly!

This first one is a combination of lemon custard, orange meringue, and lemon curd recipes. I took the best from all three and hope I came up with something new, delicious, and satisfying! I used my new Pyrex bowls I found while antiquing this weekend! I'd never seen a FULL set before!!! My mom's going to be sooo jealous!

For the crust:

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
6-8 Tbsp ice water

Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together. Cut in the shortening until pea-sized balls form. Slowly add in 1-2 Tbsp of ice water, incorporating each in until the dough forms a soft ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll with a floured pin. Fold and place rolled crust in a pie dish and crimp the edges. Leave unbaked.

For the filling:

1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1/4 cup POM pomegranate juice
zest from 1 orange (approx. 2 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp flour

Cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Add flour and well beaten egg yolks, beat to incorporate. Add milk, POM juice, and orange rind; beat to mix. In a small, clean bowl, beat egg whites until they form a soft peak. Slowly fold the egg whites into the mixture in the medium bowl.

Pour filling into the unbaked pie crust and bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Then, turn down the oven to 350° and continue baking for 30 minutes. Remove pie from oven when the center doesn't jiggle freely, and let cool completely before cutting and serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Next, I think I'll tackle a POM muffin! I just need to keep the wet-to-dry ratio the same, so hopefully everything still turns out. I've been looking for recipes that call for a fruit juice, or other wet ingredients and hope to just swap out the old wet ingredient for POM juice to keep the same moisture ratio.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Super Stuffed Baked Apples

Last night's Iron Chef competition was Battle Cabbage! How fitting! It really got me in the mood for my upcoming judging honors. But I need more BSI recipes!!! Email them to christina at dinneratchristinas dot com before Sunday at midnight (Central)! There's two great prizes at stake! Spread the word! Even if you don't like the ingredient, one of your readers might! That's how I found out about this competition - by seeing it linked on another blog!


This afternoon I went on a big cleaning spree, tackling the bathroom, the kitchen and vacuumed the entire house. Afterwards, there was nothing more I wanted to do than plop down and watch some TV. So, I did!

Rachael Ray was on, making her 30 Minute Meals "Retro-style," with a tribute to 50s home cooking, but a new twist. I suppose these were the updated apple pie, but I missed the beginning, so I'm not sure. Whatever they are, they looked good, so I printed out the recipe and we made them after dinner tonight.

Super Stuffed Baked Apples a la Mode
Recipe by Rachael Ray

4 large apples, cored
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 instant oatmeal mix, or rolled oats
1/4 tsp nutmeg, a healthy grating (I substituted Allspice)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces (I used less - maybe 3 Tbsp?)
1/8 cup raisins, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
ice cream of choice
whipped cream

Preheat oven to 425°. Sprinkle cored apples with lemon juice. (We skipped that step!) Mix next 7 ingredients and over-stuff apples. Bake 20 minutes in a small oven safe dish. (It took us a little longer to be tender) Transfer apples to small bowls with a spoon and top with ice cream and whipped cream.

Guys, I cannot even begin to describe to you how good these smelled! Like home, Grandma's house, Thanksgiving, Christmas, a bakery, a candy store, and every other yummy smell memory - all rolled into one!

And the taste! Where do we begin? There's a tender baked apple. Then, the brown sugar almost caramelizes with the oats, so there's this amazing crunch. The raisins form a plump, juicy burst and the nuts are toasted and meaty. It is an EXPLOSION of deliciousness, all tied together with the spices, that makes me want to go find Rachael Ray and kiss her!

I had one, with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. She had caramel ice cream in the episode, but to be honest, I think that'd be overkill. There's already so much going on with the apple and all those flavors - there really isn't room for much more!

Johnny had two apples and the ice cream on top! He also did a great job coring, while I mixed the stuffing together. We ended up using 5 smaller apples because there was so much leftover after the 4!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pomegranate Smoothie

The past two mornings I've enjoyed this smoothie at the start of my day. I'm not a big breakfast eater, I usually have to wait awhile until my first meal, otherwise my stomach gets upset. This smoothie was the perfect start because it was light, but still really filling and nutritious.

To make the smoothie I used half of a cut up banana, about 3/4 of a cup of lowfat vanilla yogurt, and about 3 oz. of POM juice. I blended it with my immersion stick and it made 12 oz. final product. If you wanted yours to be a little sweeter, you could add some honey.

The taste has the creaminess of the yogurt, a subtle banana in the background, and the POM juice flavor right in the forefront. It reminds me of a strawberry and banana smoothie, but with a little more kick, since the pomegranate is a stronger flavor than strawberry. One of the things I really love about it, is that there is a burst of fruit flavor, but it comes from the juice, not the actual fruit - so there are no annoying seeds. I like my smoothies and shakes to be seed and chunk free, so this is a definite plus for me!

It was also nice to be able to make something like this at home, versus paying ~$4 at a smoothie place. I could also control what went in, and the portion. Those are really important to me, and especially important in Johnny's case, dealing with a food allergy.

**Keep those BSI entries coming! You have until midnight, Sunday to email them to christina at dinneratchristinas dot com!**

Cauliflower and Cannellini Soup

Nicole (Sweetie Pie) at Just Sweet Enough posted a cauliflower and cannellini soup last week I knew I'd have to add to my recipe binder and try. I added some needed ingredients to the shopping list and planned on making it later this week. But, since I forgot to thaw meat for Monday's dinner, it jumped ahead on the schedule.

At first I thought it might be too hot to do a soup, since we had a pretty warm day on Monday, in the 60s and sunny. I had the windows open and was enjoying thebreak from winter weather all day. But I read Sweetie Pie's post and she had nice weather on the day she ate her soup, so I thought I'd go for it, too!

The lemon juice she added was the perfect, bright punch in the background to keep this from being heavy. In a million years, I would never have thought to add lemon juice to this soup - but it was the touch it needed! The ingredient list and directions are Sweetie Pie's.

nonstick cooking spray
1 medium sized head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 cup chopped onion
1 medium sized carrot, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
4 cups of broth (chicken or veggie)
2 cups of water
juice of half a lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
1 19 ounce can of Cannellini Beans with the liquid
1 cup of 1% lowfat cottage cheese
Salt to taste
Fresh dill for garnish

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place the cauliflower on the baking sheet and spray the cauliflower with cooking spray. Roast in the 475 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Spray a large pot with cooking spray and heat on medium high. When the pot is hot, add the onions, garlic and carrot. Saute for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped dill and saute for an additional minute. Add the broth, cauliflower, water, lemon juice and beans (with the bean liquid) to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in small batches in a blender or food processor incorporating half of the cottage cheese in the first batch and the other half in the second. Continue processing the soup until it has all been pureed. Return the processed soup to the pot, stir well and heat through (about a minute). Add salt to taste. I added 3/4 tsp., but the broth I used was reduced sodium. The bean juice adds some salt too, so I’d just give it a little taste and adjust it to your liking. Garnish each bowl with a sprig of fresh dill if desired.

I made the recipe as written, except I substituted oregano and basil in place of the dill, since I didn't have any on hand. I also blended using my immersion blender, so I think the consistency was a little grittier than if I'd blended it in a food processesor, like she did. We had the soup with a grilled cheese sandwich and it was a nice, quick dinner!

**Don't forget - 4 days left to submit those BSI entries to christina at dinneratchristinas dot com!**

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New England Boiled Dinner

My mom always makes corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day, so now I do, too. Although, I love it so darn much - I need to start making it other times of the year, too! Once every twelve months is definitely not often enough.

We always called it "corned beef and cabbage," but there were other things in it. Now, after being introduced to the endless array of food blogs, recipe sites, and the online world dedicated to the love and photography of food, I've seen the term "New England Boiled Dinner" and realized it was what I've always known. Even the corned beef packets have it on there, too!

You'll need:

- a big ass pot (that's the official title)
- corned beef brisket (preferably on sale for $1.68/lb.!)
- potatoes (make sure you pull off the sprouting eyes right before snapping the pic so you don't embarass yourself)
- carrots (I have nothing special to add)
- cabbage (yay BSI!)
- onion (optional)

Put the corned beef and brine juices into the pot and cover with water. You can add the little spice packet that comes with it, but for some reason my parents have an unnatural hatred for the little spice pack and it always gets thrown out. I just always assumed it must be horrible, so I throw it out, too! hahaha Add a few caraway or fennel seeds of your own and simmer the meat for 2-3 hours, depending on size, or until the internal temperature reads at least 160°.

While the meat is cooking, I get all the vegetables ready and have them sitting in a big bowl in the fridge, for when the meat is done. I don't think my mom ever added onion, but I saw a few recipes with it and it always gives the juice more flavor - so why not? Core and cut the cabbage into big chunks and peel and cut the potatoes and carrots. One of my potato pieces had this design on it. Do any of you see Jesus or Mary? Maybe I could have sold it on eBay for some big bucks, instead of just tossing it out.

Once the meat is done, pull it from the pot. Throw in the vegetables, minus the cabbage and let them boil until they're al dente. Last, throw in the cabbage and let it cook for just a few minutes, while the rest of the vegetables are finishing.

While the vegetables have been cooking away, I like to trim the fat from the beef and cut it into bite-sized chunks. Once the veggies are tender, I throw the meat back in and VIOLA! I got tonight's dinner (in the pot), a container for the fridge of leftovers for later this week, and a container for the freezer. All from a $4 sale brisket, 3 potatoes, 5 carrots, a head of cabbage, and a small onion! Not bad - those Irish really knew what they were doing stretching a meal to feed many mouths!

You can serve this on a platter, family-style, or ladle right out of the pot. We usually eat it out of the pot with some of the broth in a bowl, almost soup-style.

I never did get around to making the Irish soda bread, maybe next year...

** Don't forget to submit your BSI cabbage entries to christina at dinneratchristinas dot com before next Sunday!! **

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogger Secret Ingredient - Unveiled!

I am SO excited to be hosting the BSI contest this week!!! Thanks for choosing me, Laura!

First, here's the history of past hosts and their chosen ingredients:

Week 23: Hey What's for Dinner, Mom? - Strawberries
Week 22: One Bite at a Time - Basil
Week 21: Just Sweet Enough - Black Beans
Week 20: What I Ate Yesterday - Kale
Week 19: What's for Dinner - Orange
Week 18: BranAppetit! - Spinach
Week 17: Tales of Expansion - Dates
Week 16: Biggest Diabetic Loser - Zucchini
Week 15: Sweet & Natural - Peppermint
Week 14: bella eats [and runs] - Ginger
Week 13: Coffee Talk - Walnuts
Week 12: For the Love of Oats - Pumpkin
Week 11: Trying to Heal - Sweet Potatoes
Week 10: The Inner Workings of a College Graduate - Eggplant
Week 9: Itzy's Kitchen - Pears
Week 8: The Fitnessista - Cranberries
Week 7: Tri to Cook - Lentils
Week 6: Rhodey Girl Tests - Polenta
Week 5: eatingbender - Butternut Squash
Week 4: Care to Eat - Apples
Week 3: On a Lobster Placemat - Mushrooms
Week 2: Hangry Pants - Tomatoes
Week 1: Sportsnutritionliving - Quinoa

Since I've secretly been wishing I'd be chosen to host, I already dreamt up a few ingredients, just in case the honor was ever bestowed upon me to actually choose. Once I learned I'd really be hosting, narrowing down those ingredients at first seemed hard, but then I considered a few things and my mind was set!

I chose the ingredient because it is accessible to everybody and is very affordable. I think a lot of people overlook this ingredient's flavor and versatility. Which, I think is unfortunate, because it's something I love and hope to gather new ideas and recipes from your submissions. It's also the perfect week for this ingredient, since St. Patrick's Day is Tuesday.

So, without further ado... I chose cabbage!

According to the World's Healthiest Foods' page on cabbage, among other things, it is an excellent source of phytonutrients, which help promote detoxification within our bodies. It's also only 33 calories per 1 cup of boiled cabbage!

Recipes utilizing green or red cabbage can be submitted to christina at dinneratchristinas dot com through midnight (Central), Sunday, March 22nd. There are two ways to submit a recipe to me: (1) if you have a blog, email me the link to your post, (2) if you don't have a blog, email me the recipe and a photo and I'll post it.

And, finally, the prize!!! Ahhh, the prize. You didn't think I'd forget, did you? It's the most important part!

The winner may select 1 lb. of their choice (up to $12) from Nuts Online. Don't let the name fool you- they have a great selection of not only nuts, but also dried fruits, candies, snack mixes, coffee, tea, seeds, spices, and even some grains! The winner will also get a $10 Amazon gift card, because no matter where you live, they're available to you, and you can find anything on there!

Good luck everybody and Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!


Pomegranate Iced Tea

I love iced tea. It's not unusual for us to have a big, gallon pitcher of home-made sweet tea in our fridge. Or, to see me drinking a huge, ice filled glass of this favorite beverage through a bendy straw (I'm a kid at heart).

Today, instead of grabbing my usual glass of sweet iced tea, I poured only about 6 oz. of tea in the glass, and then added about 4 oz. of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice! The result was a beautifully crimson glass of deliciously tart, and thirst quenching pomegranate tea!

Because of my love of tea, I've tried many iced varieties, including peach, raspberry and even a lemonade iced tea! Of those, this would compare best with the lemonade iced tea because of the bright, crisp flavor the pomegranate juice adds to the tea. I absolutely love it, and can see myself drinking it on many a hot summer's day, while reading on the back patio in the future.

Diana from POM Wonderful provided me with a little packet of health information with the case of juice. To be completely honest, I was expecting to browse through it saying "yeah, yeah.." because we all know fruit is healthy, but I was actually impressed by a lot of the facts and statistics! Who would have known?!

PLEASE NOTE: The following information has been found to be deceiving. These claims were made and advertised without proper scientific support. For more information, please see this post

Some impressive health facts to consider:

-After only three months of drinking POM juice, patients with coronary heart disease had a 17% increase of blood flow to the heart.
-Patients with advanced atherosclerosis who drank only 8 oz. of POM juice a day for one year had a 30% decrease in arterial plaque.
-Patients with recurring prostate cancer drank 8 oz. POM juice daily for two years and their PSA doubling time went from 15 to 54 months. This is really important because PSA is a protein created by your prostate, and prostate cancer can increase these numbers.
-POM juice has more and better antioxidants than red wine, grape juice, Acai juice, and green tea! (I found this interesting because we're hearing lately how great Acai juice is, and POM has double the antioxidants!)

Not only is the health information surprising, but I feel like the POM company's information is equally as impressive! I was surprised to learn that they are the only brand that guarantees it contains 100% authentic pomegranate juice. There are no additives, sweeteners, or colors. In fact, when I received my box, it had ice packs in it and said to refrigerate after receiving, because there are no preservatives! They control every step of the juice and fruits from tree to press, and even to the bottles that they manufacture! You don't realize any of this in the grocery store, but once seeing this information, I really feel like this is a company that cares. I never knew any of this about them!

I also did some research on my own and found a UCLA study conducted last year, that found the top 10 healthiest fruit juices, based on antioxidants. Pomegranate juice came out on top, and it was reported: "Pomegranate is the healthiest of them all because it contains the most of every type of antioxidant. It wins in all categories. And it's thought that it might do some very good things; it may protect against some cancers, such as prostate cancer. It might also modify heart disease risk factors, and it could be healthy for your heart. So pomegranate was the clear winner."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chef Michael (Chicken Carbonara)

This is one of my brother Michael's recipes, part of an ongoing "guest chef" idea we had to share with you guys. If you haven't read his story, it can be found here. Carolyn is his girlfriend, also a CIA graduate chef (Hi Carolyn!) and they both just celebrated their 21st birthdays (only 10 days apart!) on March 4 and March 14.

"Carolyn’s Birthday Carbonara"

My sister’s food blog has been expanding at a pretty rapid rate lately. It’s almost getting to the point of making me jealous, so I thought I would try to mooch in a few of my own meals. But please, don’t even think to compare her talents in writing to my horrible notes.

Tonight I made a version of spaghetti carbonara for two; simple, quick, home-style, comfort food. I've learned the good way that professional cooks prefer simplicity, and of course, comfort.

What you will need:
1/2 lb. spaghetti
4 to 5 slices of thick cut bacon sliced into about 1/2 in. pieces
2 chicken breasts, about 3/4 lb. total, cut into bite sized pieces
2 garlic cloves
6 or so cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced
2 eggs
6 or so each, chopped leaves of sage and parsley
plenty of parmesan cheese
splash of heavy cream, about 1/8 cup (optional)
salt and pepper (maybe even some cayenne)

Alright so now that you have all of that stuff piled onto the counter, make some room for your cutting board, and get your pot of salted water on for you pasta.

Start cutting everything in order of the most simple to the messiest, storing in small bowls (I guess you could call this your ‘mise en place’ if you want). Peel garlic cloves by giving them a gentle smash to release the delicious oils and slice that bacon.

Get the bacon pieces and garlic cloves going in a medium sized sauteed pan or skillet. While this is cooking nice and slow you can work on cutting up the rest of your stuff. The bacon should be starting to get slightly crisp, you want to pull it off a little earlier than you would pull off your breakfast bacon. The key is to have it not as crispy so that it can blend in with the dish a
little easier. Save the bacon fat and garlic cloves!!!!

Start cooking the chicken pieces in the same pan the bacon was in, over medium heat. (less mess, and already seasoned with natural oil, but it doesn’t hurt to throw a dollop of butter in there.) Sprinkle the herbs on the chicken and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper (cayenne optional). Take one of those “used” garlic cloves and toss it in this pan.

Your pot of water should be at a rapid boil by now, so drop that pasta.

In a smaller saute pan get the mushrooms going, again with some bacon fat and butter. (I told you this was comfort food!) Also season this with salt and pepper, and drop in the other “used” garlic clove. Toss and stir pretty regularly on medium to high heat until they are slightly tender.

Now it’s time to start making the “sauce”. This might seem sketchy to most Americans, but in my opinion it’s totally fine. (Christina says: And Sylvester Stallone is fine after downing all those raw eggs!) Get a big serving bowl, big enough to fit the whole meal. Crack the two eggs into the bowl, a pinch of salt, about 1/8 cup (more if you want) of grated parmesan cheese, splash of heavy cream (optional, it adds a richness to the sauce, and I think if you’re going to make this you might as well go all the way with it.) Whip all of this up.

Your mushrooms and chicken should be getting close to done, so turn them down a little. By now your spaghetti should be done (al dente). You want to do this next step rather quick because the heat of the spaghetti is what’s going to cook your egg sauce. Strain the pasta, and dump it directly on top of the egg mixture.

Dump the hot mushrooms, bacon, and chicken on-top too. Now stir it all up until it is evenly mixed. What a simple ending. This dish is rich and full of great flavor, exactly how a quick meal should be. Consider yourself lucky if you get both of those deliciously crisp garlic cloves!

Friday, March 13, 2009

BSI: Strawberry (Strawberry Banana Cream Pie)

This past summer Johnny and I picked strawberries and raspberries at a local farm. We quickly realized that there were too many strawberries to just snack on, so I started looking around for recipes to use them up.There were two or three failed baking attempts. Variations of strawberry bread, strawberry pie, and strawberry scones. They all turned out really watery, took a lot longer than the specified cooking time, and overall just soggy and a big mess.

So, when the BSI was named as strawberry, I knew I'd be staying away from a baked dessert - which left a refrigerated version! Mmm, custards and cheesecakes, oh how I love you! Johnny and I finally settled on this strawberry banana cream pie because all of the flavors and components are delicious ones we love, and it had enough steps that we could divide it up and make it together.

First, I started making the pie crust from scratch, pierced it with a fork so it wouldn't bubble up, and popped it in the oven to start baking. (You could certainly cheat and buy a ready-made crust, but I didn't have one on hand.)

While I was doing that, Johnny started making the cream, or custard filling for the pie.

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine sugar, corn starch and salt in a medium sauce pan. In a small bowl, mix egg yolks and milk. Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring to make a smooth paste, and eventually adding all. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil. Boil at 1 minute, still stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set pan in a bowl of ice water and continue stirring to cool.

This was a lot of stirring and kept him occupied, so I got to work on the strawberries and bananas. I took about 2 cups of strawberries and 1 large banana and cut them up to go in the pie. By now, the pie crust had finished, so we took that out to cool.

Layer the strawberries on the bottom of the crust, then spoon over half of the filling and spread out. Next, add a layer of bananas, and finally top with the remaining filling mixture. For garnish, decorate the top with a couple strawberry slices.

Let cool in the fridge for a few hours, until the filling firms up - almost like a custard, or flan. Then, cut into slices, serve and enjoy!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Crockpot Asian Peanut Butter Pork

The past two days a 2.4 pound pork roast (from the buy one get one free sale - was supposed to be $14) has been thawing in my fridge. And, for two days I've been terrified of it.

I like pork, but I did not want to dry it out, because that ruins it for me and it becomes inedible. That meant I'd probably want to cook it in a crockpot, versus in the oven. My new go-to for crockpot recipes is Stephanie at A Year of CrockPotting and she just finished up a whopping 11 recipe collection for the pork section on her site. Tons of variety and options to choose from!

Immediately, one stood out, Asian Peanut Butter Pork. As I was reading, she wrote how an anonymous commenter makes it every month for a potluck, and if she doesn't make it her friends get mad. Sounds good, right? I was almost sold there, but there's more. Stephanie packed this up for her friend, (also named Stephanie) and her family. She says she had a problem with it, and I'm thinking "oh no" because thankfully, she doesn't sugar-coat reviews and will honestly tell you when they work or not. Do you know what the "problem" was? Her husband ate the whole 2 pound pork tenderloin before her or the kids could even try it! hahaha I was sold!

1.5-2 pound pork tenderloin (I used a 2.4 lb. roast)
1 onion, sliced in rings
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used low sodium)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
3 Tbsp water
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts (garnish; optional)
1 lime, cut in wedges (garnish; optional)

Use a 4-6 quart crockpot. Put onion slices into the bottom of your crockpot. Put the pork on top. Add brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, and peanut butter. No need to stir - the peanut butter needs to melt before you can. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4-6. The pork will be more tender the longer you cook it. 1 hour before serving, flip the meat over in the crockpot to allow the other side to soak up the peanut buttery goodness. Garnish with chopped peanuts, and serve with lime wedges.

One thing I noticed, is that this has a lot less liquid than what I usually cook with in the crockpot. When I'd go to check on it, it seemed a little thick and almost globby in some areas around the pork, so I'd stir every once in awhile, to keep it loosened up. I also went with cooking it on low for 8 hours, and the pork already looked white and not raw at about 5 hours, which made me nervous, like I was cooking it twice as long as needed. I checked with my meat thermometer, and according to that, it was already "well done!"

I decided to just go with it, and keep cooking - I ended up cooking 1 hour on high in the beginning (it was still frozen in the center), and then about 6.5 or 7 hours on low. It was SO juicy and tender, and the sauce was absolutely delicious and a perfect compliment! I served with leftover rolls from last night, which I just wrapped in foil so they wouldn't brown and re-heated in the toaster oven, and also frozen peas.

Last week, Diana from Pom Wonderful contacted me and asked if I would like to sample their product, along with some health information and try out some recipes. Yes, please!!!

So, I was very happy when a box of 8 bottles arrived on my doorstep today! We love pomegranate juice, so I'm really interested in incorporating it into new recipes and ideas, because I've never cooked with it before. I'll be sharing the recipes (and the healthy stats) with you as I make them.