Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sandwich Saturday: Cool Ranch Chicken Salad

It's Sandwich Saturday. This week, from Hidden Valley, it's a cool ranch chicken salad sandwich. It's got pepper jack cheese, avocado and you see it, Doritos chips all between two slices of toasted sourdough.

Sourdough bread is a hard crust bread, usually with tangy taste that varies by each baker. It's texture resembles French bread.

Cool Ranch Chicken Salad Sandwich
Serves 4

1 cup Cool Ranch Doritos® plus more for serving
1/2 cup mayonnaise1
1 1/2 tablespoon Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Dressing
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 cups cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken
8 thin slices sourdough bread
4 large slices pepper jack cheese
1 small avocado halved, pitted, smashed into a smooth paste
8 leaves small iceberg lettuce

In a medium bowl, add the mayonnaise, ranch dressing powder and lemon juice and stir together until combined. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the ranch mixture.

Preheat the broiler to high. Place the bread slices on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes (watch the bread closely, as broiler intensities vary). Remove 4 slices from the baking sheet and set aside. Turn the remaining 4 slices of bread over so that the crisp, golden side faces down.

Top each bread slice with 1 piece of cheese and return to under the broiler until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes (watch the cheese closely, as broiler intensities vary). Remove the baking sheet from the oven.

Divide the mashed avocado over the untoasted side of the 4 non-cheesy bread slices. Top each of the bread slices with the chicken salad and 2 lettuce leaves placed cupped side up. Add ¼ cup Cool Ranch Doritos® to each of the 4 uppermost lettuce cups. Top each bread slice with a cheesy bread slice, slice on a bias, and serve with more Cool Ranch Doritos® on the side.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
xxCalories 627; Carbohydrates 10g; Cholesterol 149mg; Fiber 2g; Sodium 620mg; Sugars 5g; Fat 51g; Protein 34g

* Source: Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley® for over 50 years ago, Nebraska-born cowboy Steve Henson dreamed of striking it rich. So, along with his high school sweetheart Gayle, he did what so many young men before him had done and headed west.

Outside Santa Barbara, Steve stumbled onto 120 acres of sprawling land nestled in the mountains and filled with streams, waterfalls and picturesque views. The family bought the land in 1954 and the Hidden Valley® Guest Ranch was born.

At the ranch, guests enjoyed the great outdoors by day and home-cooked meals by night. But it was something else that brought them back again and again: delicious, homemade buttermilk salad dressing made with a special blend of herbs and spices, lovingly prepared by the proprietor – the Original Ranch® dressing.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert. Anyone can cook meals that get oohs and aahs from family and friends. Comment questions, requests and recipes. Share your ideas. Click here now to get the next recipe in your inbox. Forward to a friend.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sweet and Savory Friday: Apple Strudel and Vegetarian Burrito

Sweet and savory food sometimes go together, sometimes they don't. Today, it's a mouthful of gorgeous with sweet apple strudel and savory vegetarian breakfast burrito.

Green applies are the highlight of this delicious and health-packed meal.

There are about 7000 types of apple in the world.

Apples in general are sweet, but some green apples are sour and are used for cooking, for oils, as well as, making wine.

The green apple is a high impact fruit with immense benefits any health conscious individual wants. Here are just some of those benefits:

Green apples contain a great amount of fiber, which is good for digestion, and they reduce blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar and help treat rheumatism.

Apples contain carbohydrates, protein and a ton of vitamins, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, B as well C. It also has plenty of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Potassium, Copper, and Zinc.

Green applies feature several anti-oxidants, such as polyphenol, as well as flavonoid that helps reduce the risk of cancer by not allowing DNA damage to occur. They have less cholesterol, and are therefore useful for those who want to lose weight.

It's a fabulous day to cook. Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry makes it so effortless.

Sweet Apple Strudel
Serves 6

1 egg
1 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. raisins
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
1 tbsp. confectioners' sugar (optional)

Heat the oven to 375°F. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork. Stir the granulated sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the apples and raisins and toss to coat.

Sprinkle additional flour on the work surface. Unfold the pastry sheet on the work surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, spoon the apple mixture onto the bottom half of the pastry sheet to within 1 inch of the edge. Roll up like a jelly roll. Place seam-side down onto a baking sheet. Tuck the ends under to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture. Cut several slits in the top of the pastry.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let the pastry cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar, if desired.

For some nutty crunch, 1/4 cup sliced almonds may be added with the apples and raisins.

Toss the apples and raisins until they're evenly coated with the flour mixture. The flour helps to thicken the juices released by the apples as they cook.

Vanilla Sauce:
Stir 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup light cream, 1/3 cup sugar, 4 egg yolks, beaten and 1/2 vanilla bean in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean. Any leftover sauce is delicious over fresh berries or ice cream.

Difference between sweet and savory is that one reflects a sugar sensation and the other does not. A salad is savory, but it could include sweet slices of strawberries or a sweet salad dressing, which makes the salad both sweet and savory. For the home kitchen cook, you want to include a little sweet with savory flavors in the meal to satisfy the tastebud senses.

Here's the savory in sweet and savory today. It's a vegetarian burrito. Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter.

Vegan is the strictest sub-category of Vegetarians. Vegans do not consume any animal products or by-products. Some go as far as not even consuming honey and yeast. Others do not wear any clothing made from animal products.

I'm not a vegetarian but who doesn't enjoy a no-meat meal now and then?

Savory Vegetarian Breakfast Burrito
Serves 6

6 Mission® Carb Balance Medium Soft Taco Tortillas
16 oz. Egg whites
16 oz. Hash brown potatoes, packaged
10 oz. Spinach, fresh
12 oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook hash brown potatoes according to package directions. Add fresh spinach to skillet towards the end of cooking time and toss lightly. Cook until spinach is slightly wilted and soft.

In a non-stick skillet, over medium heat, scramble egg whites, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, lay tortillas on a work surface. Fill each with approximately 2 oz. of mozzarella, then spoon in egg whites and potato/spinach mixture, dividing evenly between each tortilla. Roll burrito style, heat in microwave for 30 seconds each. For a crispier outside, bake in 350° F oven for 5 minutes and serve.

Top with avocados, mango salsa, grilled tofu or hot sauce, if desired.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 310; Carbohydrates 34g; Cholesterol 10mg; Fiber 15g; Fat 7g; Sodium 980mg; Sugars 3g; Protein 31g

Sources: Pepperidge Farm Sweet, Mission Foods Savory

When meal planning choose a portion from each food group. Typically, most adults need 6 to 11 servings of grain products per day; 3 to 5 servings of vegetables; 2 to 4 servings of fruit each day; 3 cups of dairy products every day; and 2 or 3 ounces per day of meat which equals 2 servings.

Sensible portion sizes and limited number of servings keep even the most decadent sweet and yummy desserts part of a balanced diet.

I'm Alexandria Marx, the Yum Expert and everyday home kitchen cook on family friendly food that's easy to make and tastes good. After feeding three kids for more than a couple of decades, living with diabetes and blogging over 500 posts, I evaluate everything food, and write about how to Think Thin. Forward to a friend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kitchen Review: Disposable Gloves

Disposable gloves are handy to have in the kitchen when handling meats such as chicken.  They're also good to use when cutting chilis, peppers and onions. 

For the few dollars it takes to put 500 Disposable Glovesin your kitchen, it's worth it for the added health factor and convenience.  If you think about it, you spend more on soap and a couple of paper towels you probably use after you hold chicken or Jalapeños.

Most gloves are one size fits all, especially the "affordable" ones. It's fine if too big a bit, but if you have big hands you may want to insure the size if big. You don't want to tear the glove trying to force it on your hands.

You get 500 in this box, and that can last as long as a year, which makes it a low investment.  Find this online at Amazon for less than $8.00 which is less than one penny per day.

Here's a list of basic kitchen tools, gadgets and appliances.

Alexandria Marx, food blogger, home kitchen cook and all around food lover. Find recipes from around the web and world from simple to decadent, kitchen tips and reviews for home cooks from forks and spoons to grocers and restaurants. Click here to get Being Grand posts in your inbox.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Make It Monday: Beef Sirloin Steak

It's Make-It-Monday with another fabulous, quick and easy meal. This recipe from Campbell's Kitchen uses a can of soup and the heart-healthy wonder food, spinach..

Spinach is a leafy green, heart-healthy food. It’s an outstanding source of vitamins C and A which are antioxidants that help reduce free radical amounts in the body. The antioxidants work to keep cholesterol from oxidizing. In addition, folate is good for a healthy cardiovascular system, as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps to lower high blood pressure.

This is a versatile vegetable (more nutritious than iceberg lettuce) that can be eaten raw in a salad, cooked, or blended into a spinach smoothie. Spinach can be enjoyed gently cooked on its own, or added to soups and other dishes like this one.

I've used Campbell's soups for years with delicious results. It's quick and is a no-mistake cooking ingredient.

If you've never tried sirloin steak, give this family-pleasing version a try. It features a creamy sauce flavored with balsamic vinegar...and in just 40 minutes, you've got steak, veggies and potatoes ready to serve.

Campbell's Beef Sirloin Steak with Baby Spinach
Serves 4, freezes well for leftovers another day

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless beef sirloin steak, 3/4-inch thick, cut into 4 pieces
1 large onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 small red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell’s® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 bag (about 7 ounces) fresh baby spinach
2 cups Hot mashed potatoes

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until well browned on both sides. Remove the beef from the skillet. Pour off any fat.

Heat the remaining oil in the skillet. Add the onion and pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring often.

Stir the soup, water, vinegar and rosemary in the skillet and heat to a boil. Return the beef to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the spinach. Cover and cook the beef for 2 minutes for medium or until desired doneness. (Do not overcook the spinach.) Serve the beef and vegetable mixture with the potatoes.

Nutritional Information (amount per Fat Free serving)
Calories 400; Carbohydrates 28g; Cholesterol 75mg; Fat 20g; Fiber 4g; Sodium 910mg; Protein 29g

Source: Campbells, Naturally Healthy Eating

Cholesterol is an essential substance for the body's normal function, but when cholesterol levels in the blood get too high, it becomes a silent killer that puts the body at risk for heart attack. There are two types of cholesterol. Good (HDL) and Bad (LDL). You want to know your limit before you eat another bite of food.

Good food, meatless, spicy, decadent recipes, and kitchen basics from top chefs around the web, all in one place, for busy home kitchen cooks, empty nesters, diabetics and lovers of Mexican cuisine from Alexandria, the Yum expert. ¡Olé!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Features One-Dish Meal: Mexican Lasagna

It's Friday Features, and today it's avocado, the immersion hand blender, and Mexican lasagna recipe served with banana milk.

Featured nutrient-rich food: Avocado
The vitamins that an avocado has are vitamins B, K and E, which help your body's metabolism, healthy skin tone, bones and the eyes. Avocados contain monounsaturated fat that lessens LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increases HDL (good) cholesterol. Avocados feature fiber, helps reduce cancer and control the appetite.

Featured kitchen item: Immersion Hand Blender
You can't always mix well with a spoon or spatula, and transferring hot food to a bowl to mix doesn't make sense.

Use an immersible hand blender to make cooking a whole lot easier. Blend cold drinks, hot soups, and crêpe batter right in the pitcher, pot or bowl. Use it to puree, whip cream, beat eggs for a frittata and to make smoothies. It’s comfortable to hold, easy to use, and the blending shaft and beaker are dishwasher-safe.

Featured One Dish Meal: Mexican Lasagna
8-12 Servings; leftovers freeze well for another meal

2 (12-ounce cans) Libby Roast Beef with Gravy
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (28 ounces) Las Palmas mild enchilada sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup of your favorite salsa
1 large can (30 ounces) Rosarita refried pinto beans
1 medium yellow onion, well chopped
1 can (4 ounces) chopped Ortega green chilies
1 can (2.25 ounces) sliced black olives
32 ounces shredded Cheddar and Jack cheese mix
15 corn tortillas (10 inches)
10 tablespoon olive oil (as needed)
Bag tortilla chips
Avocodo or guacamole
Sour cream

Drain roast beef and discard liquid gravy. In a large skillet, sauté garlic, add roast beef (not the liquid), heat through; add enchilada sauce, sugar and flour, mix with immersible blender.

In large bowl, gently mix salsa and beans. In separate bowl, mix onion, black olives and chilis, toss well to mix; add half of the cheese.

In small skillet, heat oil and quickly warm both sides of each tortilla in oil to soften, drain on paper towel.

Lay 5 of the oil warmed tortillas on bottom of 13x9 inch baking dish. Carefully spoon half of the meat mixture on top; hand layer 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Layer remaining 5 oil warmed tortillas on top of the cheese, carefully spoon remaining meat mixture, cover with last 5 oil warmed tortillas and top with 1/3 of cheese mixture.

Cover and bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes until bubbly. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with chives. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with tortilla chips, guacamole and sour cream, if desired. Serve with cold banana milk.

Featured Beverage: Banana Milk
2 servings

1 pint of milk
1 banana
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of cinnamon

Peel banana and slice. Add to milk with sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Use immersion hand blender to mix well until there are no banana lumps.

Simply combine everything in a blender, blend until smooth, enjoy or refrigerate in a separate bowl of ice to keep real cold. Swish before serving in margarita glass with a cinnamon stick stir.

One-Dish Nutrition: 545 Calories; 52g Carbs; 148mg Cholesterol; 26g Fat; 26 Fiber; 26g Protein.

* Source:

The right nutrient-rich food and drink make for healthy bodies, and the right kitchen utensils make cooking easier. Most kitchen cooks have the basics: Mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, pastry brush, peeler, kitchen shears, pans and skillets, thermometer, graters, tongs, can openers.

You want to add the Immersion Hand Blender to your kitchen.

Beverages are important, too. The human body is made up of about 60 percent water. It's vital to drink plenty of water to nourish the body, joints, temperature, spinal cord and brain. It has no calories and is generally refreshing. It's difficult for many to drink an 8 ounce glass of water every hour, so try to drink a big drink in the morning, at lunch, before or after dinner and before bedtime.

Remember to create meals with memories.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, writer, blogger, foodie, reviews food and food related products and services, recipes, menus and meal planning, entertaining, grocery, shopping and budgets. Click here to get Being Grand posts in your inbox. Forward to a friend.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How to Make Caramelized Onions

It's How To Tuesday, and today, it's all about those delicious nutritious onions. Onion is a bulb-vegetable, one of the oldest edible food sources known to mankind. You can enjoy all or part of an onion, raw or cooked.

One of the popular ways to cook onions is to saute them and another favored way is to caramelize them. So, here's how to do onions two ways:

Frying or sautéing onions versus caramelizing onions are both delicious. "Caramelize” simply means frying onions slowly on very low heat.

Sautéed onions have a slightly crispy outside and a very soft center. Caramelized onions are very soft and very sweet. You don’t need to add anything to make them sweet, since the natural sweetness of the onion develops through the slow cooking process.

Both approaches to cooking onions require: onions, butter, olive oil, salt and pepper.

How to Make Sautéed Onions
For 2-to-4 servings of the sautéed onions, pull out your measuring spoons and measure these ingredients into your glass bowls:

4 medium onions
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Peel and slice the onions into 1/4 inch slices. Melt butter and olive oil in a very large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the onions.

Quickly cook the onions, moving them around the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. It should take no more than 10 minutes for the onions to get nicely browned.

How to Make Caramelized Onions
To make caramelized onions, all you need is time, and you don't need to be a seasoned cook.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Peel and slice the onions. In a really large fry pan melt the butter and olive oil over really low heat. Add the onions to the pan. Sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of salt.

Cook the onions over the lowest heat possible for about 1 hour. (Yikes! That’s a long time!) Don’t be tempted to increase the heat. You cannot speed up this process. Over the course of 1 hour they should not turn brown. Be sure to give them an occasional stir. This is what they will look like after 15 minutes of cooking.

After about one hour increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are well browned. That could take another 25 minutes. There will be a lot of brown bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Those bits are full of flavor. To get them off the bottom of the pan and incorporated into the onions turn off the stove and pour 1/2 cup of dry white wine (or water) into the pan.

After the wine is added turn the stove back on. This will ensure the alcohol doesn’t catch fire and flame up. The wine will dissolve all the bits and make the onions even darker.

Now remove them from the heat. Add salt and ground pepper and even a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Caramelized onions are great on their own or can be added to stews and sauces.

By the time you finish caramelizing the onions they will have cooked down to about half their size.

Posted by Alexandria Marx, home kitchen cook, foodie, WAHM, writer and all around YUM expert on what tastes good to me and what doesn't. Click here to get Being Grand posts in your inbox. Do you like this recipe's ingredients? Which of these onion fixings do you like best?

* Source: Adapted from: Joy of Cooking

Monday, April 6, 2015

Meatless Monday: Walnut Almond Lettuce Wraps

It's Meatless Monday. This wrap’s filling, a surprising combination of almonds and walnuts seasoned with savory cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and coriander, literally explodes with flavor. Creamy avocados and sweet, crunchy carrot sticks add a delicious contrast.

Go Meatless Monday is recognized by cities and countries all around the world. It's a day people unite around food.

Lettuce wraps are very easy to create with an almost endless array of ingredient variations. You can use the same ingredients that you use in burritos, tortillas, pita bread or spring rolls. They secret to great wraps is the contrast of warm, flavorful fillings with the cool crunch of lettuce.

Romaine lettuce is a variety of lettuce that grows in a tall head of sturdy leaves with firm ribs down their centers. Unlike most lettuces, it is tolerant of heat.

Coriander, an herb of the cilantro plant, is a member of the carrot and parsley family. The seeds can be used whole or ground. Whole seeds can be sprinkled over salads, or meat while it is roasting.

The ground spice is ideal for creating spicy rubs and marinades.

Cilantro leaves are often sprinkled on dishes as garnish, for salsa and guacamole.

Walnut Almond Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

For the almond walnut filling
1 cup shelled, raw almonds
1 cup shelled, raw walnuts
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari soy sauce

To complete the Walnut Almond Lettuce Wraps:
4 large Romaine lettuce leaves
1 tomato, sliced
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

To make the almond walnut filling:
Soak the almonds and walnuts in a small bowl with enough water to cover for 2 hours. Drain the nuts and transfer to a food processor. Pulse the nuts for about 20-30 seconds, or until they are chopped, but not yet a paste.

Season the chopped nuts with chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, cinnamon, balsamic vinegar and tamari. Stir to coat well.

To complete the Almond Walnut Lettuce Wraps:
Scoop about 1/2 cup of the almond walnut mixture into each lettuce leaf. Top each with a few carrot sticks and slices of tomato and avocado.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving)
Calories 512.9; Carbohydrates 22.4g; Cholesterol 0mg; Fat 45.2g; Sodium 307mg; Sugars 5.6g; Protein 5.6g

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, about half your calories should come from carbohydrates, typically about 250 grams (g). For example, a person who eats approximately 2,000 calories per day should take in about 250 grams of carbohydrates (2,000 divided by half equals 1,000 -- and 1,000 calories divided by 4 grams = 250 grams). A teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams.

Carbs and diabetes: People with diabetes must always focus on carbohydrates. Depending on individual health challenges, reliable sources indicate that most people with diabetes should not consume more than about 130 grams of carbohydrate each day.

* Sources: Meatless Monday Recipe

Alexandria, the Yum Expert, brings you good food, meatless and decadent recipes, and kitchen basics from top chefs around the web, all in one place, for busy home kitchen cooks, empty nesters, diabetics and lovers of Mexican cuisine. ¡Olé!