Friday Favorite – Alex and Ani Bangle Bracelets!

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I have always loved all kinds of jewelry. You will always see me with earrings, a necklace and at least one bracelet on. Without jewelry, I feel naked.  Lately, I have become slightly obsessed with Alex and Ani bracelets.  I first saw them on my friend, Terri. She had all different ones in silver and a few in gold and wore them together. They looked fabulous!! They are bangles with charms on them and are very unique.  So far, I have a shark fin, seashell, pineapple, feather and starfish.  I picked out the shark fin and my husband chose the rest. Can you tell I love the beach??  They make great gifts, too, because there is something for everyone.  Alex and Ani also make rings, necklaces, earrings and special collections.

Here is why I love them:

1.  They are bangles with charms on them, not just a charm bracelet.  I love the look of stacked bangles (arm candy, as some call it) with the charms hanging down for the dangling effect. So cool!

2.  Many of the proceeds from the bangles go to charity. The first one I purchased is the shark fin for balance and up to 20% of the proceeds will go help support children with cystic fibrosis.

3. They are MADE IN THE USA. That’s correct.  The main headquarters is located in Rhode Island, but have stores in many states in the Northeast.  A lot of boutiques carry their products and there is a store locator on their website so you can see where you can buy them.

4. They are made from recycled material.

5.  They are adjustable, so they will fit big or small wrists.

Go to their website for more info – http://www.alexandani.com,  but I must warn you that they are addicting!

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Friday Favorite – An Old School Cooking Machine

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The other day, I was going through all of the “stuff” in our basement and found an a George Foreman Grill.  It was dubbed the “lean, mean grilling machine” and was very easy to use.  All you had to do was heat it up (by plugging it in) and put the food on the grill plate, close the machine, grill for 4-5 minutes and the food would be done.  I would grill chicken, veggies and even fish.  I remembered how quick the cooking was, how easy it was to use clean and wondered why it was in the basement in the first place.

I decided to break it out and cook some chicken. I took some chicken strips, added a little olive oil and cajun seasoning and grilled them for about 4 minutes and voila!  They were juicy and tender and delicious!  After tasting that chicken, I decided that I had neglected this grill for too long. Until we can fire up the real grill when the weather warms up, the George Foreman is back as my favorite cooking machine! It’s reliable, quick, easy to use and lends itself to healthy cooking.

NOTE #1:  If you have a larger family, you might want to cook the food in batches since most of the grills cook up to four servings.  I know for sure that they are sold in Kohl’s (where there’s almost always a coupon) and on amazon.com.

NOTE #2:  There are a ton of ways to season chicken or fish. If you do not like it spicy, you could make some other combinations such as olive oil with:

salt and pepper

garlic salt and pepper

Italian seasoning

lemon pepper seasoning

Montreal chicken seasoning

poultry seasoning

The possibilities are endless!

Friday Favorite – Bertolli Vodka Sauce

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I love vodka sauce – if it’s made correctly.  There needs to be a good balance of cream, tomatoes and a little vodka.  I usually only order it in a restaurant and never tried making it at home, but it is on my list of things to do.  You have to understand that neither my husband nor I ever had jarred sauce of any type growing up. He would enjoy marinara sauce made from tomatoes in his parents’ garden and I would enjoy sauce made from canned crushed tomatoes, puree and tomato paste.  I was 18 before I tried jarred sauce and did not care for it very much (it was too sweet).  I think jarred sauces have come a long way, but cannot seem to sway from making my own.

My mom is a great cook, but does not know it.  She loves vodka sauce, but had no desire to learn how to make it at home  so she decided to try a couple of jarred ones.  The few I sampled at her house were not that great. One tasted bitter and another smelled like a cross between vomit and dog food.  I am not exaggerating either.  The smell was so nauseating, I could not even eat it, but my parents, brother and his kids all seemed to enjoy it, so I thought it was just me.

After that,  I was determined to find a jarred vodka sauce that smelled and tasted good and finally, I found it!  It’s Bertolli Vodka Sauce and let me tell you, it is absolutely divine.  It’s creamy and tomato-y and great for a quick meal.  My husband and I like to sprinkle (or actually, POUR) on Parmesan cheese and…crushed red pepper.  MMMM HMMMM!!  It really kicks up the taste and gives it a little heat to contrast the creaminess of the sauce.  For some protein, you could always add grilled chicken or even shrimp.  Put a little parsley on top and you have a tasty and fast meal on the table in about 15 minutes from start to finish!

If you can’t find Bertolli, I would also recommend Mario Batali’s vodka sauce. That came in as a very close second.  (Sorry, Mario!)

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Mediterranean Pasta

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I love pasta. Any kind and any way. It has always been a great comfort food of mine and the reason I could never be successful at a low-carb diet. I will not give it up! I’d rather have a few extra pounds on me and enjoy my macaroni rather than be really skinny and not able to eat it.  That might sound sad to some, but it’s true!

I have been trying to make my pasta recipes a little more healthy and wanted to share my newest one with you. I was inspired by Ree Drummond – again.  (Okay, I am kind of obsessed with her at the moment). She made something she called Pantry Pasta.  I have made similar dishes in the past, but this time, I think I really got it down.  Hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

1/2 red onion or shallot

2-3 minced garlic cloves

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/3 cup white wine

1/3 cup kalamata olives

1/3 cup black olives or other olive of choice

1 can of artichoke hearts roughly chopped

3/4 pound penne pasta (or any smaller noodle)

2-3 cups of fresh spinach

1 tsp. sugar

2 tsp tomato paste

1 tsp capers (optional)

2 TBSP chopped parsley (fresh is always better in my opinion)

extra virgin olive oil

salt, pepper, crushed red pepper (if you like it hot!)

 

Directions:

1. Cook pasta 2-3 minutes under the recommended time.

2. In a large skillet, saute’ chopped onion in 2 TBSP olive oil for about 5 minutes.

3. Add chopped garlic and let it cook about 2 minutes.

4. Add can of tomatoes.

5. Simmer about 10 minutes.

6. Add olives, capers, spices, tomato paste and sugar. (The reason I add sugar is to cut down on the acidity of the tomatoes.)

7. Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens up a bit.

8.  Add pasta to the skillet and let it finish cooking for 2-3 minutes.

9.  Add spinach and toss.  It will wilt quickly.

10. Sprinkle with feta or parmesan cheese and a little more parsley if desired.

 

I added some shrimp to this.  I just sauteed them in olive oil with a little salt and pepper and added it to the pot at the end.

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Crazy-Good Corn Casserole

To those who also follow The Cooking Goose, I apologize for this post.  It is a repeat of what I posted on The Cooking Goose for the past two days, but I just had to share these two creations with The Squawking Goose followers.

We ate the corn casserole with dinner tonight…AGAIN.  With salmon this time.  I cannot tell you how much I love the cake-y texture this has.  And, I used non-fat Greek yogurt instead of low-fat sour cream.  It had a slightly different taste, but still really good and EASY!

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And the cauliflower soup?  We both had that for lunch.  I had the lighter version with no milk and my husband had the creamier one.

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Cauliflower is in season now. You can usually find it for $2.50 or less, so give it a try and let me know what you think!

Check out the recipes at thecookinggoose.wordpress.com

The link is under “Blogs I Follow”

Not that I follow my own blog. That would be weird.   I  just thought that would be easier for you to access.  🙂

One more dill recipe…

This is another recipe that I made the other night.  It’s quick and easy.  I  LOVE Ina Garten’s  Cheddar-Dill Scone recipe, but did not have time to make them. So, I improvised and came up with cheddar-dill crescent rolls.  Easy and delicious!

Cheddar-Dill Crescents

Ingredients:

1 tube of Crescent Rolls (I prefer Pillsbury)

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 TBSP chopped fresh dill

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven according to crescent package directions.

2.  Roll out crescents in their triangles.

3.  Put some cheese and dill on each (about a teaspoon of each) and push it down into the dough.

4. Roll crescents as you normally would.

5. Bake according to directions.

 

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My husband and I ate the first four. More like devoured them with our steak and baked potatoes.  These are a great accompaniment to read meat.  Or chicken.  Or fish.  Can you tell I LOVE these??

What the DILL do I do now?

So, if you’re like me, you buy a bunch of dill for a recipe, use the little amount needed (a little goes a long way) and then stare at and smell it’s enticing aroma wondering what you are going to do with the rest of it. Well, here are two suggestions:

Lemon-Dill-Citrus Salmon

Ingredients:

3-4 salmon fillets

3/4 cup orange juice (wash and zest  before squeezing)

1/4 cup of lemon juice (wash and zest before squeezing)

1/4 cup lime juice  (same as the other fruits!)

3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 TBSP chopped dill

 

Directions:

1. Wash salmon and pat dry.  Set aside.

2.  Combine about a teaspoon of the zest from the orange, lemon and lime.

3. Add the juice from each of the fruits.

4.  Mix together in a small bowl or Pyrex liquid measuring cup.

5. Add garlic, dill, salt and pepper.

6. Whisk well.

7. Place fillets in a glass dish, skin side down.

8.  Pour citrus marinade over the fish and cover with saran wrap.

9.  Let marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

Then,

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Remove dish from the fridge to let it warm up a bit.

3.  Pour out about half of the marinade.

4. Bake for 15-17 minutes.

 

I served it with rice (made with chicken stock, not water for extra flavor) and steamed broccoli. YUMMY! and HEALTHY!

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Here is another one:

 

Lemon-Dill Rice

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups chicken broth (or stock)

1 cup uncooked white rice (I prefer Carolina)

1/4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp lemon zest

2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill

 

Directions:

1.  In small sauce pan, heat chicken broth with olive oil until it comes to a boil.

2. Add rice and cook for about 25 minutes.

3.  When warm, add lemon zest, juice and dill.

4. Mix well and serve.  Enjoy!

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This is a picture of the salmon with the rice on the bottom and steamed broccoli on top.  A new favorite dinner for us!