Author Archives for Renea Myers

Healthy Super Food Salad

I have recently been researching the so-called “super foods” for some of my kids’ culinary classes.  You know… those foods that pack a big nutritional punch, keep you healthy, fight disease and basically make you feel like a super hero.  (Or at least that’s how I pitch it to the kids.)  I created a salad and a dressing that uses a whole bunch of these super foods.  And it turned out pretty super delicious.  You can increase the proportions of those ingredients that you particularly like.  Have a SUPER time with this one.

“Super Food” Salad

From: Renea Myers

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped fresh kale
  • 3 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 3 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup finely diced Gala or Pink Lady apples
  • 3/4 – 1 cup grated sweet potatoes (raw, peeled)
  • ½ cup chopped dried cranberries
  • ¾ cup blueberries
  • Crumbled goat cheese or feta (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. minced shallot
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine dressing ingredients using a blender.
  2. Combine all salad ingredients and toss with desired amount of Honey Mustard Vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. 

Slow Cooker Meatloaf– Best Meatloaf Ever!

I love, love Cooks Illustrated.  It’s my go-to place when I’m looking for a tested and trustworthy recipe.  I also really like Ina Garten, Epicurious. Alton Brown and Tyler Florence.  But I digress… I’ve been doing a lot of slow cooker recipes for my family recently since I’m so busy these days teaching cooking lessons.  Funny huh?  The cooking teacher doesn’t have time to make dinner.  I came across a slow cooker meatloaf recipe in Cooks Illustrated and made a few modifications to come up with this To Die For recipe. It’s moist without being soupy and really flavorful.  Drag out that slow cooker and give it a whirl.

Slow Cooker Meatloaf– Best meatloaf ever!

Yield: 8 servings

Slow Cooker Meatloaf– Best meatloaf ever!

Inspired by slow cooker meatloaf recipe from Cooks Illustrated

Ingredients

  • 16 square saltine crackers
  • 4 
ounces baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and stems trimmed
  • 3 
tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 
tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 
teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 
teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 
teaspoon pepper
  • 1 
medium shallot, minced
  • 1 
tablespoon light olive oil
  • 2 
garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 
teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 
large eggs
  • 2 
lbs. meatloaf mix (equal parts ground chuck, ground veal, and ground pork.
  • 6 
tablespoons bottled chili sauce

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine saltines, mushrooms, milk, Worcestershire, soy sauce, salt, and pepper and process 15-20 seconds until a paste forms. Transfer to large bowl.
  2. Combine shallot, oil, garlic, thyme, and basil in small bowl and microwave 90 seconds, stirring halfway through cooking. Whisk shallot mixture and eggs into the saltine mixture.
  3. Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Add meatloaf mix to saltine mixture and knead with hands until thoroughly combined.
  4. Tear off an 18-inch long piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Form meat mixture into 9 by 4-inch loaf and place crosswise over center of foil- to make a sling. Carefully transfer meatloaf and foil into the slow cooker. Cover and cook until meatloaf registers 160 degrees, about 4 hours on low.
  5. Adjust oven rack 5 inches from broiler element and pre-heat broiler. Using the foil sling, transfer meatloaf to rimmed baking sheet and brush with chili sauce. Broil until sauce on top is bubbly and slightly brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to serving dish, discard foil sling, and tent loosely with additional foil. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with additional warmed chili sauce, if desired.
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Sensible Tips for Prepping Wholesome Family Dinners that won’t make you crazy

Now that school has started, time is a precious commodity for families.  We all like the idea of creating fresh, delicious family dinners but the reality is…. (drum roll)… it takes time to prepare these meals!  Even when your job is to cook (like me), feeding the family can be a challenge!  Here’s the good news… by developing a few good habits you CAN cook yummy meals for your family this year. Here are some “best practices” to get you on the right track.

  1. Force yourself to plan your menu for 7 days.  If planning Monday-Sunday doesn’t work for  you then do it Wednesday-Tuesday or whenever you consistently have an hour to look at your family calendar, decide what you’re going to cook, gather the recipes and make the shopping list for all of it.  And if you’re really organized, grab the coupons that match your list.  You won’t believe the weight off your shoulders when you realize your whole week of “what’s for dinner” is solved!  It doesn’t have to be complicated as long as it’s planned!  If you don’t have a whole hour, do part of it in carpool and the rest while waiting for your child to finish gymnastics or soccer practice. Get it?
  2. Share meal ideas with your friends and family.  Keep them organized into categories that work for you on Pinterest, a recipe box, a notebook, whatever…   Be able to quickly find ideas for categories such as slow cooker, make ahead, super fast, on-the-go, make and take, and no-cook meals.  It’s great to be able to make a recipe that you know will work either because you have made it before or it comes from a trusted source.  Consider posting the menu in the kitchen for the family to look forward to… and to hold yourself accountable.
  3. Prep ahead!  Do all the chopping and cutting for several recipes at once and store in the fridge.  More than half the time of cooking is in the prep work!  If you need carrots for soup, stir fry and kids’ lunches then cut them all up at the same time.  (some veggies like carrots hold up better if stored in water).  Slice meat for steak sandwiches, marinate chicken, cook rice, bake potatoes, brine turkey breast, whatever you can do ahead.. DO IT.  You will love yourself later and you only have to clean up that big counter of chopping mess once or twice a week.   It doesn’t hurt to get the kids involved in the prep work! If you don’t like the idea of batch-prepping then find a time in your day (not dinner time) when you can prep ingredients for the next meal so all you have to do during dinner chaos hour is just cook it!
  4. Plan to thaw. I hear this all the time.  I have stuff to cook but I forgot to thaw it out.  When you are making your menu plan, add notes about what needs to be pulled out of freezer on which days to be thawed in time for preparing.  Frozen meat floating in the sink while you anxiously watch the clock is no fun.
  5. Make good use of leftovers.  Figure out ways to re-purpose leftovers into another meal and make that part of your plan.  Or, freeze leftovers and thaw them out for a second round next week.
  6. Plan a night off of cooking.  I encourage you to pick one guilt-free night each week where you plan to NOT cook.  Maybe you order pizza, let the kids make soup and sandwiches, eat leftovers, go out to McDonald’s, eat cereal, clean out the fridge and pantry and eat what you find….. one night without a square meal is fine!  Announce DOYO– dinner on your own with your head held high!

Try to have fun with this and not just look at it as more work for you (even though it is!).  Why not try a new recipe at least once a week, have the family cook together one night, choose a different country each week and make a featured recipe.  I have been known to take a cookbook and have my child randomly open it to a page and voila- that’s what we made!  Good luck and if you fall off the food truck, pick up your spatula and start again next week.

Low Country Shrimp and Grits– easier than you think

I love to travel and Charleston is one of my favorite destinations.  I recently taught a Low Country Grits recipe in a Jr. Chef Road Trip Recipes camp and it was a huge hit! There are many versions of shrimp and grits, but I prefer the Charleston style with yellow cheese grits as opposed to the brown-gravy style. This is not a daunting recipe at all! Cooking the grits is the most time-consuming part.  If you live near Greensboro, NC, I  encourage you to get your shrimp from the Shrimp Connection. He usually has a truck near the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market.  Check it out!

Low Country Shrimp and Grits– easier than you think

Yield: 4-6 servings

Low Country Shrimp and Grits– easier than you think

Adapted from recipe by Martha Nesbit

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

Instructions

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Cover and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; remove from skillet reserving grease. Add the shrimp to the bacon grease in the skillet. Cook until shrimp turns pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
  3. Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Top with shrimp mixture. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6
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Easter idea for next year– Creamy “Carrot” Dip

This was a fun appetizer for Easter.  I combined ideas from several recipes to create this one.  It’s a winner!

Creamy "Carrot" Dip

Creamy "Carrot" Dip

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. room temperature cream cheese
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 Tbsp. minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp. salsa
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. minced jalapeno
  • ¼ -1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 2 cups crushed nacho flavored Doritos.
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • Crackers or Wheat Thins

Instructions

  1. Combine cream cheese, onion, salsa, cumin, jalapeno, and seasoned salt in a large bowl
  2. Gather the mixture into a large egg-shaped ball and place on a large serving platter. Shape into a carrot shape. Press Doritos pieces into the mixture, covering surface.
  3. Press parsley bunch into top to resemble the carrot greens. Trim if necessary. Chill for at least 2 hours (preferred).
  4. Serve with crackers or wheat thins
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Chicken & Vegetable Soup

I love shortcuts as much as the next mom.  This soup takes advantage of a really good product from the grocery store- Perdue Shortcuts.  I used the Fajita flavored one in this soup, but you could make it with any kind of cooked chicken.

Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup shallots, ¼” dice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. Better than Bouillon Chicken Bouillon
  • 1 medium red potato, ½” dice
  • 1 cup mushrooms (any kind) ½” dice
  • ½ cup green beans, trimmed and cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled, ½” dice
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp. salt or to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 9 oz. Perdue Shortcuts, (fajita- style) cubed
  • 1 ½ cups elbow macaroni, cooked

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots until soft. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds until fragrant.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the chicken and macaroni).
  3. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.
  4. Stir in chicken and macaroni. Adjust seasoning and serve.
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Mushroom Soup with Herbs and Sherry

Here’s a warm and savory soup for a cold day.  I like this recipe because no matter what kind of mushrooms I use, the result is a woodsy, deep flavor.  I have also added some heavy cream to this recipe at the end to make it a Mushroom Cream Soup.  It could also be reduced down to a delicious sauce (just back off on the salt). The soup-making technique outlined here is very similar to other soup recipes. Once you master this technique, you can substitute the ingredients you like or happen to have on hand.  So what are you waiting for?  Go make some soup!

Mushroom Soup with Herbs and Sherry

Mushroom Soup with Herbs and Sherry

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cups mushrooms (any kind), ½” dice
  • ½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • ½ tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/3 cup sherry

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepot, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots until soft (2-3 minutes). Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds until fragrant.
  2. Add mushrooms and sauté until soft. (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients.Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  4. Adjust seasonings and serve.
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Orange-Ginger Poppyseed Mini Muffins

I LOVE to make mini muffins.  They are perfect little bites of deliciousness that appeal to kids and adults.  I have my favorite recipes but am always looking for a new one to add to the mix.  I found a Southern Living recipe recently that I tweaked a little and now am really happy with it.  I think you will be too! The key to muffins is to not over-mix or over-bake. Those little holes you sometimes see in muffins are from over-mixing. Appropriately called “tunnels.” No tunneling now, ya hear! You can make these by hand, electric mixer not required!  

Orange-Ginger Poppyseed Mini Muffins

Orange-Ginger Poppyseed Mini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 tsp. poppy seeds, divided
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2-3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it. They rise a little more with less sugar)
  • 1/4 cup melted salted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger + more more garnish
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 1/2 tsp. orange zest, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and 2 tsp. of the poppy seeds. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, brown sugar, melted butter, ginger, egg, and 2 tsp. of orange zest; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.
  4. Spray 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray or use paper liners. Scoop batter into cup, filling 3/4 full.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 9 minutes or until set in the middle. Remove from the pan and cool completely on wire racks.
  6. Meanwhile, stir together powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. of orange zest, and orange juice. Mix with a whisk until smooth and let it sit at room temperature 5 minutes to firm up a little before icing muffins.
  7. With a small knife or spatula, frost the muffins with a teaspoon of the icing. Garnish with remaining orange zest, ginger and poppy seeds. Let stand 10 minutes to set the glaze before serving.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Southern Living.

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Cheater’s Gourmet Pimento Cheese Dip

Ok, I admit it!  Sometimes I find a recipe I want to try and then when I get ready to make it I’m just not in the mood to do all the steps or I just don’t have time.  Yes, it happens to me too!  That’s what happened when I found a delicious-looking pimento cheese dip that called for shredding cheese and making a cheese sauce before adding the other ingredients.  Well I cheated and used two jars of Tostitos cheese dip.  I adjusted the rest of the recipe and absolutely loved the results! This is the fastest gourmet dip ever!  Now you can’t cheat on the pimento cheese.  Don’t buy the cheap stuff.  I especially like My Three Sons pimento cheese. It’s amazing. This is a great dip to serve at football parties, Halloween, Thanksgiving or anytime you just want to indulge in cheese.

Easy Gourmet Cheese Dip

Easy Gourmet Cheese Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 (15-oz) jars of cheese dip (Tostitos, etc.)
  • 1 can Rotel original tomatoes & chiles, drained
  • 1 (10-oz) container My Three Sons Pimento Cheese (Emmy’s Original)
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large sauce pot. Heat and stir over medium heat until smooth.
  2. Garnish with cilantro. Serve in a fondue pot or a crock pot to keep warm. You can also just throw everything in a crock pot to start with and let it melt slowly on low heat- stirring occasionally- and serve it right from there.
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Goat Cheese, Pistachio & Pancetta Poppers

It’s not too early to start thinking about your Thanksgiving menu.  Don’t forget the appetizers!  A dynamite appetizer is a tasty way to entertain your guests as they arrive and talk and hug.  It also buys you a little time if the turkey isn’t quite cooperating.  I like to serve cheese appetizers at Thanksgiving because the meal doesn’t usually include a lot of cheese and everyone loves it!  Here is a make-ahead appetizer that will earn you lots of gratitude points.

Goat Cheese, Pistachio & Pancetta Poppers

Goat Cheese, Pistachio & Pancetta Poppers

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces plain goat cheese, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced small
  • ½ cup pistachios, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. honey

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix goat cheese, cream cheese, and thyme just until combined.
  2. Remove bowl from the mixer; cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pancetta until fat is rendered and pancetta is crispy. Drain on paper towels; cool and finely chop.
  4. Mix pancetta and pistachios together on a plate.
  5. Remove cheese mixture from refrigerator. Form into 1-inch balls and then roll in pancetta/pistachio mixture, pressing into the cheese ball. Chill again before serving. Drizzle with honey and serve on toothpicks.
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