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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Recipe Rerun: Fresh Berry Tart

The July 4th holiday is only one week away, can you believe it? This year is really flying by! I don't have many festive recipes for this holiday; however, I did make this delicious, beautiful Fresh Berry Tart a few months ago using raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries so I guess this would count. :)

I really enjoyed this dessert not only because it was light and easy (I don't like to make complicated desserts for all of you new to CEK), but because it wasn't overly sweet. Click on the name to be taken to the original post and if you're looking for more fun food and craft ideas for the July 4th holiday, check out my Red, White and Blue Board on Pinterest!

I'll be taking the next week off to spend some time with family and friends, as well as making our first college visit for the summer (Yikes!). If you're new to the blog or haven't stopped by in while, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, have a look around to see what you might have missed and leave me a comment letting me know you were here. I just love company!
 Enjoy and I'll be back July 8th with some 
new recipes to share with all of you. Happy 4th! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sesame Roasted Cauliflower

Every time I purchase a new head of cauliflower, I try to find other ways to experiment with it. I have to say that roasting is my all-time favorite way to prepare and consume it as it really takes on a wonderful flavor. This time I added in some sesame oil and seeds to give it a little different flare and it was extremely tasty.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Grilled Iceberg Wedge with Pecans in a Balsamic Goat Cheese Vinaigrette and Other Popular Types of Lettuce

Did you know that lettuce belongs to the sunflower family? Lettuce is a plant that grows year-round, is native to the Mediterranean area and is believed to have been first cultivated around 4500 BC. Salad lettuce was popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans and primitive heads were loose and leafy. Today there are many different varieties which contain several nutrients such as Vitamin A and C and minerals like calcium and iron. The highest nutrients come in the darker green, outer leaves and all lettuce is low in calories.

Here are some favorite types of lettuce...

  • Look for long, bright green leaves on a thin stem
  • Tastes peppery with a slight bitter flavor
  • Adds a kick to other greens or compliments mild chicken or fish dishes
  • Look for loose heads with wide leaves
  • Tastes delicate with a hint of sweetness
  • Look for large, compact heads of light green leaves
  • Has a mild flavor and pairs nicely with stronger flavors
  • Available in Red or Green leaf
  • Look for leaves that have curly edges and are loosely gathered around the stem
  • Has a crisp, mild nutty flavor
  • Can be used as a wrap with your favorite ingredients
  • Look for purplish leaves with white ribs on the small heads
  • Has a slightly bitter, crisp taste
  • You can grill or eat it raw and the sturdy leaves make a great substitution for a plate or bowl
  • Look for large green outer leaves on a long head
  • This crunchy lettuce is mild and very versatile
  • Look for flat, rounded dark green leaves with thin stems
  • Builds strong bones and better eyesight
  • Mild taste
I can't remember the last time I ate Iceberg lettuce, but it used to be the only kind my mother purchased while growing. Somewhere along the way, I started using Romaine as my go-to lettuce and never looked back. So while I was out shopping recently, I decided to purchase a head of Iceberg to try it out again.

I have seen wedge salads on many menus over the years, but never tried them. So I came up with my own version for lunch one day by first quartering the head, grilling it, then topping it with this Balsamic Goat Cheese Vinaigrette and pecans. It was deliciously filling and not only did it make a nice lunch, it would also make a lovely starter to a sit down meal.

Grilled Iceberg Wedge with Pecans in a Balsamic Goat Cheese Vinaigrette
Prep Time:  15 minutes           Yield: 4
Cook Time:  5 minutes            Serving: 1
Total Time:  20 minutes

For the Salad:
  • 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce
  • Prepared Goat Cheese Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 1/4 c. Pecans, chopped or whole
For the Balsamic Goat Cheese Vinaigrette:
  • 2 tbsp. Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 2 tbsp. Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • 1 tsp. Fresh Thyme, removed from stem
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
For the Salad:
  1. Remove the core from the lettuce by pounding the base on a flat surface; then pull out the core. Run cold water through the lettuce and allow to drain. Pat with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. 
  2. Cut the head of lettuce in half, then in half again. You should have four equal quarters.  
  3. Heat your grill (I used an indoor Cuisinart) and grill your lettuce approximately 4-5 minutes; until you have slight grill marks
  4. Place the lettuce on a plate, drizzle about 1-2 tbsp. of dressing on top; then top with pecans. 
For the Balsamic Goat Cheese Vinaigrette:
  1. Add the vinegar, oil, garlic, thyme and goat cheese to a mini food chopper or blender and pulse until all ingredients are smooth. Season with salt and pepper. 

Nutrition Facts
Calories 177, Carbs 5.8g, Fat 16.6g, Protein 2.9g, Fiber 1.6g, Sugar 3.4g
*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate. 


Shopping List

Monday, June 24, 2013

Honey-Lime Chicken Bites


My kids used to love chicken nuggets when they were younger. WAIT..Who am I kidding? They still do! Though long gone are the days where I used to have to purchase those Chicken Dino's now that their food palates have been expanded (THANK GOODNESS!). So every once in a while I find a new way to make them like I did with those Pretzel Coated Chicken Nuggets a while back that everyone loved. 

This time I decided to dip the chicken into a mixture of honey and fresh lime juice and zest; then coat them with some panko breadcrumbs and bake them for a healthier option. The kids LOVED these, including my 18 year old nephew who happened to stop by to mow our lawn the day I made these. He gave these Honey-Lime Chicken Bites a giant seal of approval. He also said that he would be willing to come by each week to be my taste tester and that his cousins were lucky. Gee, I hope they see it that way too! :) 

Anyway, the kids and I really liked these also. Eat them as a meal and serve them with a vegetable, side dish and salad or serve these as an appetizer. The choice is up to you!

Honey-Lime Chicken Bites
Prep Time:   15 minutes           Yield: 6 (36 pcs.)
Cook Time:  15 minutes           Serving: 6 pcs.
Total Time:   30 minutes

  • 4-4oz. Boneless Chicken Breasts, trimmed and cut into approximately 36 pieces
  • 1/4 c. Honey
  • 1 Lime, zest and juice
  • 1 c. Panko Breadcrumbs
  • Cooking Spray
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Combine the honey and lime zest and juice in one bowl and the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl. 
  3. Dip the chicken pieces first into the honey mixture; then into the breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. 
  4. Once all of the chicken is on the pan, spray the tops with cooking spray; then bake the chicken 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your pieces. Makes 36 pieces 
Nutritional Information (per piece)
Calories 31, Carbs 4.5g, Fat .2g, Protein 3.1g, Fiber .1g, Sugar 2.6g
*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Recipe Rerun: Fried Green Tomatoes with Avocado Ranch Dipping Sauce

School is almost out for the summer (YES, we're still going until next week!) and I'm trying to tie up a few loose ends around the house before I'm off and running trying to entertain an eleven year old for the next few months. If you read my newsletter, you'll know that my posts may be a little sporadic in the coming weeks, but I'll try my best to create new content to share with you you as often as I can. My daughter has even offered to do a few Guest Posts over the summer and is looking forward to getting back into the kitchen again. 

In the meantime, I'll be running some old posts to bring new life to these fun recipes as well as share them with all of the new followers I have here at CEK since they were first posted. 

To start with, I'm going to share this recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes with Avocado Ranch Dipping Sauce. I chose this recipe for several reasons. 
  1. It was the 2nd most popular (page views) recipe on my site to date since starting this blog in April 2011. 
  2. When I first posted this recipe last September, many people couldn't find "green tomatoes" as by then, most tomato plants had fully blossomed and turned red. Depending on when you planted your tomato plants or where you reside, the next few weeks will be a great time to pick them for this recipe before they fully bloom. Also, if you didn't grow your own tomato plants, ask your local farm stand if they can pick some for you. 
  3. If you read the original post, I used bottled Ranch dressing; which was great in a pinch. However, since then I found a wonderful homemade lower fat version from +Ann Fulton  of the Fountain Avenue Kitchen. I shared her recipe for Low Fat Ranch Dressing back in January this year and this dressing would also work very nicely for this dipping sauce. 
  4. Now this is the big one. Are you ready? These are DEE-LIC-IOUS and shouldn't be missed. However, as I mentioned in the first post, it's one of those things you need to make and eat right away while they're hot. When reheated, they loose that crispy coating that comes when you first fry something. 

Oh one last thing. Sorry, but you won't find any nutritional information on this recipe. We're frying people, need I say more?! 

Did you make these the first time I posted this recipe?
 If so, comment below and let me know! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pickled Beets

As a child, I remember going to family picnics and without fail, there would always be pickled beets as a salad option. I never particularly cared for them when I was young, but as I reached my teenaged years, I tried them again. The recipe was simple: canned beets, onions and white wine vinegar and I thought they were alright, but not something I would rush out to make for myself.  In fact, I don't recall having eaten pickled beets again since the 1980's!

However, with my new found love of fresh beets, I decided to give the old recipe a makeover using fresh ingredients like beets and tarragon; then using a white balsamic vinegar to give it a slightly different flavor. These marinated beets were so refreshing and flavorful and would make a lovely salad for any upcoming summer gathering.

Pickled Beets
Prep Time:      10 minutes                 Yield: 4
Cook Time:     40 minutes                 Serving: 1/2 cup
Refrigeration: 2 hours
Total Time:     2 hours 50 minutes

  • 3 Medium/Large Beets, stems removed
  • 1/4 c. Red Onion, thinly diced
  • 1/4 c. White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. Fresh Tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Sugar
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  1.  Place beets in a pot, then cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until the beets have softened. Cooking times may vary depending on size, but will take approximately 20-40 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool in cold water. 
  2. Peel the beet skins, slice beets into 1/4" thick slices; then cut into manageable, bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl; then add the onions. 
  3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, tarragon and sugar until it's combined; then add it to the beets. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Allow to refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. 

Nutrition Facts
Calories 90, Carbs 13.8g, Fat 3.7g, Protein 1.4g, Fiber 1.7g, Sugar 12g

*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate. 


Shared on Thursday's Treasures 6/20/13 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Broccoli Rabe with Chorizo

Broccoli rabe (also spelled broccoli raab) or otherwise known as rapini is a green, leafy vegetable that is know for it's bitter taste that have buds that resemble broccoli, but do not form a head. You can eat the leaves, buds and stems and is mainly used in Italian and Portuguese cuisines. 

My hubby is a HUGE broccoli rabe fan; however, the girls and I don't care for it. So every once in a while I just buy some for him and I'll usually saute it with a little garlic and olive oil or my Aunt Bonnie will make some extra when she's making it for her family and save some for him. Since he also likes it mixed with sweet Italian sausage or pasta, I decided to mix it in with some sauteed Portuguese chorizo and he LOVED it!

Broccoli Rabe with Chorizo
Prep Time:  10 minutes                       Yield: 4
Cook Time:  8 minutes                        Serving: 1/2 c.
Total Time:  18 minutes

  • 7oz. Chorizo, peeled and sliced into 1/2" slices
  • 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
  • 1 Bunch Broccoli Rabe
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  1.  Heat oil in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat; then add in your chorizo. Saute about 2-3 minutes per side until lightly browned. 
  2. Cut the head broccoli rabe into 1"-2" pieces, removing the stems; then rinse under cold water. Drain well.
  3. Add the garlic and the broccoli rabe to the pan and saute until the vegetable has softened yet is slightly firm; approximately 3 minutes.  A good indication is when it turns bright green. Season with salt and pepper. 
Nutrition Facts
Calories 271, Carbs 3g, Fat 22.8g, Protein 13.9g, Fiber 1.6g, Sugar .2g
*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate. 


Monday, June 17, 2013

Applebee's Oriental Dressing (Copycat)

My family and I are not fast-food people and even my youngest when given the choice of going to McDonald's or Applebee's will choose Applebee's EVERY time. She just loves it there and she rarely eats off the kid's menu. In fact, her favorite thing to order are their Wonton Grilled Chicken Tacos; while my older daughter and I usually gravitate to the Oriental Chicken Salad or the Oriental Chicken Wrap.  So I went on a quest to find out how to make the dressing they serve with it and I have to say this recipe is SPOT ON and so easy to make. I used it on some mixed greens with grilled chicken as I didn't want to tackle the entire salad (too many ingredients!), but it's now one of our favorite dressings to make at home.

Applebee's Oriental Dressing (Copycat)

Prep Time:   10 minutes                        Yield: 12
Cook Time:  0 minutes                          Serving: 1 tbsp. 
Total Time:  10 minutes

  • 1 1/2 tbsp. Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 c. Hellmann's Mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. Sesame Oil
  1. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and whisk well. 
Nutrition Facts
Calories 31, Carbs 0g, Fat 3.4g, Protein 0g, Fiber 0g, Sugar 0g
*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate. 


Friday, June 14, 2013

Design Changes for CEK

I mentioned in the newsletter that I'll be making some slight changes to the blog over the next couple of months and some of you may have noticed some minor changes already; like the new header and design colors.

The next step after the design change was to FINALLY splurge and have a professional photo shoot done of me in my kitchen and I learned a few things.

#1. I am not photogenic...AT ALL; which is why I put this off for so long. I smile and my eyes crunch up so tight, that they look like slits. Seriously, I have lizard eyes! (Made you laugh didn't I?!). And if I don't smile, I look like I'm constipated. Not quite the image I want to portray!

#2. I SERIOUSLY need to drop a few pounds. All of this cooking over the last 2 years has really taken a negative toll on this aging body. I just don't bounce back as quick as I used to. 

#3. Bob Ernst from Robert Wayne Photography is a GENIUS! Not only was he professional, but his prices were very reasonable, he was very accommodating and made me look good! (Well, at least my hubby thinks so and that's all that matters to me!). His specialty is wedding photography, but he does portraits as well. If you live in the Northern NJ area, give him a call and tell him I sent you! After NUMEROUS shots and poses, here is the final one I'll be using.

What do you think?  
Are there any other changes or features that you would 
like to see here at Carrie's Experimental Kitchen 
in the coming months? 

I'm also looking for someone locally in the tri-state area that can help with some minor IT support. If you or someone you know does this kind of work, please email me at carrieexpktchn (at) optonline (dot) net.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Flank Steak Stuffed with Brie & Zucchini (Family Favorites) and How to Cook the Perfect Steak This Father's Day

Ah yes...Beef is more than likely going to be "What's for Dinner" this coming Father's Day. According to the most recent Consumer Grilling Study, three out of four Americans say that the one meat they grill the most often is beef (69%); while chicken came in second (25%) and pork came in third (6%). I would tend to agree as it seems like we eat beef more often in the warmer, grilling months ourselves.

I don't know about you, but I'm a visual person. Show me and I can do it or figure it out. Tell me and you lost me. So I found this chart below to determine how long to cook your steaks as a guide, but try not to poke too many holes in the meat while cooking as the juices will flow out and cause your steak to dry out.  Cooking times do vary according to the cut of meat as well so for a more specific list, including the different cuts of beef and minutes to cook per side, click on the link to see this really helpful chart from Beef It's What's For Dinner.
As far as Father's Day plans, I'm not quite sure what we're going to do yet. Saturday is my rescheduled Book Signing from 1pm-3pm; then we're heading to a combined graduation party for my nephew(high school) and niece(college) where I'm bringing that Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad with Kalamata Olives, Capers and Sun Dried Tomatoes, and with the hubby traveling so much lately between his father's surgery, vacation and business trips, I think he'd prefer just hanging home for the day to recoup.

I'm thinking that I may make this family's favorites recipe for Flank Steak Stuffed with Brie & Zucchini from my cookbook. I can't believe I haven't made this recipe since I originally created it in August 2011 and it was one of our favorites...always on the quest to find new and exciting new recipes I guess! For this dish, I sauteed some zucchini with fresh rosemary, garlic and mushrooms. Then I added some slices of Brie, wrapped it up, sliced it individually and grilled it. I have to say it was AMAZING; however, you have to grill these on a higher temperature so that all of the cheese doesn't run out before the meat is done cooking.

Flank Steak Stuffed with Brie & Zucchini
Prep Time:  30 minutes                               Yield: 6
Cook Time:  Personal Preference                 Serving: 1 piece

  • 1 1/2 lb. Flank Steak
  • 1 1/2 c. Zucchini, cut in half then sliced
  • 1 c. Mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh Rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4oz. Brie, white rind removed and sliced
  • Kitchen String
  1. Using a meat tenderizer, pound flank steak until it is rectangular in shape and even thickness. 
  2. In a pan, heat oil and sauté the zucchini, mushrooms, garlic and rosemary until the vegetables get soft.  
  3. Evenly spread the zucchini mixture on top of the steak, leaving a 1/2" border around all sides; then add the cheese. 
  4. Roll up the flank steak lengthwise and tie with six pieces of kitchen string; spacing them out evenly to where you will slice them. 
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut the rolled steak into six individual pieces. Season with salt and pepper just prior to grilling. 
  6.  and grill until desired doneness.  

Nutrition Facts
Calories 260, Carbs 1.8g, Fat 13g, Protein 32g, Fiber .5g, Sugar .7g

*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate. 

Looking or other Beef Grilling Ideas? How about some of these reader favorites!

Enjoy and Have a Happy Father's Day! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Low-Fat Vegetable Lasagna

Yes. I am half Italian; however, I was never a big fan of ricotta cheese, which is why I don't make lasagna, baked ziti or ravioli all that often. But a while back, I made Low Fat Black Bean and Sun Dried Tomato Lasagna using cottage cheese and I LOVED it! So it prompted me to find other ways to make this recipe as well. 

I was about to leave for vacation and I had some zucchini and cottage cheese I needed to use up before I left so I whipped up a batch of this Low Fat Vegetable Lasagna. It was incredible and I really liked how it wasn't "mushy" with cheese in between the layers like a regular lasagna usually is. I happened to use the regular lasagna sheets that had to be boiled, simply because the store I was in at the time didn't happen to have the no-boil sheets which I prefer using. If you can find them, it would shave off some cooking time. Just layer the sheets like you normally would without cooking the noodles first. 

Low-Fat Vegetable Lasagna
Prep Time:  20 minutes                        Yield: 12
Cook Time:  45 minutes                        Serving: 1 piece
Total Time:  65 minutes


  • 1 box Barilla Lasagna Sheets
  • 1lb. 2% Cottage Cheese
  • 2 c. Reduced Fat Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 tbsp. Fresh Parsley
  • 2 c. Zucchini, shredded
  • 2 c. Frozen Chopped Spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 c. Carrots, shredded
  • 2-28 oz. Cans Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add some salt and cook the lasagna sheets until they are al dente. Drain the water. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cottage cheese, 1 c. mozzarella cheese, egg, 1 tbsp. parsley, zucchini, spinach, carrots and 1 can of the crushed tomatoes. Mix well. 
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  4. Using a 9"x13" oven safe dish, ladle a thin layer of the crushed tomatoes on the bottom, place 5 lasagna sheets on top of the sauce; then spread the vegetable mixture on top of the noodles. Continue layering four times until the top layer contains only the lasagna sheets. 
  5. Add a layer of the crushed tomatoes; then sprinkle with the remaining 1 c. of mozzarella cheese and 1 tbsp. parsley. 
  6. Bake for 45 minutes; then remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes; then cut into 12 pieces.  
Nutrition Facts
Calories 302, Carbs 46.5g, Fat 5.1g, Protein 19.5g, Fiber 6.2 g, Sugar 6.6g

*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vegetarian Roasted Tomato, Spinach and Chick Pea Soup

Whether it's Winter or Summer, there is nothing like a nice bowl of hot soup on a rainy day! I started off making this Vegetarian Roasted Tomato, Spinach and Chick Pea Soup for lunch one afternoon. It looked fantastic with the chunks of roasted tomatoes, fresh wilted spinach and whole chick peas, but it tasted a little on the bland side. I didn't want to add salt or cheese, so I pureed all of the ingredients instead.

It's amazing how just pureeing something can give it an entirely new flavor. Everything blended nicely together and this recipe turned into a heart healthy, creamy soup I could put in a cup and drink instead; which is a HUGE time saver when I'm trying to do other things at the same time!

Vegetarian Roasted Tomato, Spinach
and Chick Pea Soup
Prep Time:   15 minutes                        Yield: 5
Cook Time:  20 minutes                        Serving: 1 c. 
Total Time:  35 minutes

  • 1 Beefsteak or Heirloom Tomato, chopped
  • 2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 c. Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 Garlic Clove, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1-150z. Can Chick Peas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 c. Fresh Baby Spinach, rinsed, stems removed
  • 2 c. Fat Free Vegetable Broth
  • 1 c. Water
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  2. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes until they start to soften. 
  3. Heat the oil  in a nonstick saute pan over medium heat; then add the onion and garlic. Saute 2-3 minutes until the onion starts to turn translucent. 
  4. Add in the basil, spinach, chick peas and cooked tomatoes and saute for another 2-3 minutes. 
  5. Stir in the broth and water, bring to a boil; then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  6. If you like a "brothy" soup, leave whole. If you prefer it blended (like I did), use your immersion blender to blend all of the ingredients together until smooth; approximately 1-2 minutes. 

Nutrition Facts
Calories 94, Carbs 14.3g, Fat 2.4g, Protein 4g, Fiber 2.9g, Sugar 1.8g
*Calculations based on ingredients entered into Calorie Count and may not be 100% accurate.