Presenting my new cookbook.... Dinner for a Year!

UPDATE - My cookbook is no longer available for purchase.  I am mulling over some new ideas to help you out when cooking in your kitchen so stay tuned....

I am so excited to announce that my new cookbook Dinner for a Year 52 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Spice Up Your Family Menu Planning has been published!! After many years of gathering my dinnertime recipes in binders, cookbooks and on my blog Dinners for a Year and Beyond, I have published my cookbook to help you add a little zip and zing to your weekly dinners.

Like most home cooks, I can fall into a rut of making the same dinners day after day and week after week. I decided to shake things up a bit by adding 1 new recipe a week to my dinner menu plan. It did not take much thought with all the amazing recipes floating around the internet, in magazines, in cookbooks, and in my head. It also did not take any more time as I was going to be making dinner for my family any way so why not spice it up a little bit.

So how will my new cookbook Dinner for a Year help you and your family??? Well, I have done the work of choosing one new recipe to add to your menu planning each week. The recipes are not difficult. They all use ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. And they are unique and will appeal to all memebers of your family.I arranged the recipes in the cookbook by the seasons to highlight the best ingredients available throughout the year.

The recipes fit into our eating styles at different times of the year with grilling recipes for the summer months and comfort food recipes for the winter months. I added a bonus chapter with 10 of my favorite desserts because no meal is complete without a sweet ending.

Also, I will be offering personalized and signed bookplates to download into your copy of Dinner for a Year in the near future. If you would like to have your copy of my cookbook signed just email me at amy@amycaseycooks.com and I will email back your bookplate to download in your copy as soon as it is available.


I Don't Want to Lose You

My desk
Nothing in life ever seems easy.  And for me, my computer is a magically and mystically beast.  At the speed of light, it does more for my food writing and personal chef business than I could ever do with telephones, faxes, and the good ole' US mail.  But along with the magic it performs comes the mystery of not knowing what is going to happen if I press a certain key or click a link.  I guess I should have paid more attention in my Computer Science 101 class and not had the guy sitting next to me write my programs.

So to all you loyal Feedburner subscribers, I am in the process of redirecting you to my new website amycaseycooks so you don't miss out on my recipes, cooking videos, and articles.  The feed to Dinners for a Year will be deleted and redirected to my new website.

Hopefully all will run smoothly and update your reader or prompt you to update to my new feed.

I am crossing my fingers and toes and saying the rosary a few times that it will work.

Stay tuned.......



Alert the media!!!

I am excited to announce my new website www.amycaseycooks.com.  The site is a combination of my blog Dinners for a Year and Beyond and my personal chef services website.  All new blog posts will be on my new website so sign up for my newsletter to receive updates.

To keep up with what is cooking in my kitchen, check out my cooking videos, read my articles, and see what my personal chef services are all about stop by www.amycaseycooks.com.

You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.


Grilled Balsamic Glazed Mahi Mahi

Grilled Balsamic Glazed Mahi Mahi

With a few warm days interspersed with to cooler Spring weather, I decided it was time to venture outdoors and fire up the grill.  I am lucky to have a family of fish lovers and with mahi mahi on sale, last night was the night to introduce them to this firm, white fish. Grilled Balsamic Mahi Mahi is a super simple recipe that lends itself well to many different types of fish such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.

With the grill fired up, dinner was on the table in less than 15 minutes. I also served basmati rice and fruit salad. We all enjoyed the dinner. My Middle One did comment that mahi mahi was not her favorite type of fish. She is more of a salmon fan. The slightly caramelized balsamic vinegar glaze added just enough flavor to the fish without overpowering its delicate flavor. I grilled some extra fish which will be fish tacos for tomorrow's lunch.

If you are trying to serve more fish to your family, this is a good starter recipe to try. With fresh fish and a quick preparation, you can change those landlubbers into seafaring folks.

Grilled Balsamic Glazed Mahi Mahi

serves 4

1 1/2 pounds of mahi mahi fillets
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium tomato, diced
basil, chopped

Preheat grill and set it to medium high heat.

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper.  Place the fish in a glass baking dish and drizzle with half the marinade.

Grill the fish for about 5 minutes. Flip the fish and brush with some of the reserved marinade. Grill for an additional 4 - 6 minutes and flip the fish one more time. Brush with more of the balsamic vinegar and remove to a platter. Top with the chopped tomato and the basil. Serve immediately.


Honey Ham and Fresh Pineapple Pizza

Honey Ham and Fresh Pineapple Pizza
Your Easter dinner was a success!

The guests ate and drank and ate and drank their fill of mimosas, honey glazed ham, twice baked cheesy potatoes, pineapple bread pudding, roasted asparagus, french silk pie and more peanut butter filled chocolate eggs than you can count.

Some of the leftover ham was sent home with your relatives, but there is still 3 pounds of the spiral cut beauty sitting in your refrigerator.  After ham sandwiches, omelets filled with ham, and split pea soup with ham, what will you make with all that ham?

Honey Ham and Fresh Pineapple Pizza is what will be for dinner tonight.  Flour tortillas stand in for the crust and are topped with a spicy marinara sauce, monterey jack cheese, diced ham and pineapple and a sprinkling of herbs.  A few minutes in the oven is all that is need to melt the cheese and crisp up the crust.

Your family will never know you are serving "leftover ham," and there is no need to tell them ;)

Honey Ham and Fresh Pineapple Pizza

serves 4

4 (9-inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup marinara sauce
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 1/3 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
1 cup diced ham
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
dried oregano
dried basil
chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place tortillas on 2 large baking sheets.  Combine the marinara and barbecue sauces and spread about 2 heaping tablespoons on top of each tortilla.  Sprinkle 1/3 cup of the cheese on top of the sauce followed by 1/4 cup each of the ham and the pineapple.  Sprinkle with a little oregano and basil.

Bake in oven for 6 - 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly golden brown and the tortillas are crispy.  Let cool 2 - 3 minutes before cutting in pieces and sprinkle with the parsley.


Lemon Barbecued Shrimp

Lemon Barbecued Shrimp
With a spell of warm Spring weather over the past couple weeks, I dusted off the Weber grill and made a few dinners in the great outdoors.  First up was a platter of Lemon Barbecued Shrimp.  I love grilling because...

1.  I spend time outside
2.  Dinner cooks by itself with little help from me
3. No dirty pots and pans to wash

Lemon Barbecued Shrimp includes a homemade marinade with ingredients most kitchens have on hand.  Making your own marinades is a quick proposition.  With a mason jar, you can add all the ingredients and give it a vigorous shake.  Also, you control the ingredients that go in so you can make your homemade marinade as healthy - or not - as you would like.

After spending about 30 minutes in the marinade, the shrimp get a a double flavor boost from the tangy lemon barbecue sauce and the char or the grill.  Head outside and prepare this is a quick meal for your family.  And you will get the added benefit of getting a dose of vitamin D from some time spent in the sun.

Lemon Barbecued Shrimp

serves 4

for the mariande --
1/4 cup ketchup
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 pounds extra large shrimp (16 - 20 count per pound), peeled and deveined with tails
12 inch wooden skewers

lemon wedges

In a mason jar with a lid, combine the marinade ingredients and shake well.  Place shrimp in a resealable bag and add about 2/3 of the marinade.  Place in refrigerator to marinate for about 30 minutes.

Heat grill to medium high.  While the grill is preheating, thread 4 shrimp on each skewer.  Grill for 3 - 4 minutes per side, brushing with remaining marinade during the last couple minutes.  Can be served straight from the grill or chilled with lemon wedges.


Carrot Ginger Dressing

Carrot Ginger Dressing
A night out at your local Japanese restaurant will undoubtedly include a salad with crispy iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, tomato wedges, and cucumber slices topped with a large dollop of Carrot Ginger Dressing.  This zippy dressing tastes like no other with its bite from the ginger root, saltiness of the miso, and bright orange color and fresh taste from the carrots.  It is packed with flavor and is light and refreshing.

I have been making more and more salad dressings recently as the long list of ingredients on the store bought brands scares me.  I am not sure what Polysorbate 60 is and I definitely don't need Yellow #5 food coloring in my salad dressing.  Most homemade dressings contain only a few ingredients that the well stocked kitchen typically has on hand.  And many are combined in a mason jar or whirled in the blender or food processor which makes prep a breeze.

Carrot Ginger Dressing took all of 5 minutes to make in my food processor and that included the assembling and putting away the ingredients.  The recipe makes about 1 cup of dressing allowing enough for a few salads during the week.

Once you taste your homemade Carrot Ginger Dressing you will want to make all your salad dressings from scratch.  This could be the start of something beautiful.

Carrot Ginger Dressing

makes 1 cup

1 tablespoon grapeseed or peanut oil (or substitute a neutral tasting oil you have on hand)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons white miso*
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
3 tablespoons water

Combine the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined but still with small bits of carrot.

Dressing can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

*Miso is available in most well-stocked grocery stores.  It keeps in the refrigerator for several months or in the freezer indefinately.


Thyme Rubbed Pork Chops with Apple-Shallot Sauce

Thyme Pork Chops with Apple-Onion Sauce
If you grew up in the 1970s, The Brady Bunch was required television viewing.  It is the story of a lovely lady bringing up 3 very lovely girls who meets a man named Brady who was bringing up 3 boys of his own.  They knew that this group would some how form a family and that is how they became the Brady Bunch.  I have seen every episode at least 3 or 4 times and have a few favorites:  the multi part episode when the Brady's vacation in the Grand Canyon and Bobby and Cindy smuggle beans and franks in empty flashlights for the Indian boy Jimmy, the suspenseful episode when Marcia breaks her nose and has dates with 2 different boys on the same night, and the musical episode when the Brady kids compete as "The Silver Platters"  in a television talent show.  Oh the memories........

One classic Brady Bunch episode that particularly stands out for me is the "Pork Chops and Applesauce" episode.  Peter is testing out new personalities and does his best Humphrey Bogart impersonation while discussing dinner with Alice the housekeeper and his mom Carol.

Putting an updated twist on the classic Brady Bunch pork chops and applesauce recipe, I developed Thyme Rubbed Pork Chops with Apple-Shallot Sauce.  Apples are one fruit which we always seem to have on hand at our house. Both crisp, tart Granny Smith and sweet and slightly soft Macintosh apples are two favorites that are readily available in the refrigerator fruit drawer.  Pan sauteed pork chops are topped with a chunky apple and shallot sauce that gets a kick from Dijon mustard and Garam Masala (an Indian spice blend readily available at your local grocery store).  A simple dish to prepare that packs a complex flavor wallop.

Sit down to a family dinner of Thyme Rubbed Pork Chops with Apple-Shallot Sauce and then watch an episode or two of the The Brady Bunch.  You will fall in love with the vintage show all over again.

Thyme Rubbed Pork Chops with Apple-Shallot Sauce

serves 4

4 (6 - ounce) pork chops, center cut and about 1-inch thick each
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

1 large apple, such as Braeburn or Rome, peeled, and chopped in large dice
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala

Sprinkle pork chops with thyme, salt and pepper.  Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and add oil.  Add pork and saute on each side for about 4 - 5 minutes or until just cooked through.  Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

In the same pan, add the apple, shallot, and garlic.  Saute, stirring occasionally, for 3 - 5 minutes or until the apples begin to just soften and the shallots are translucent.  Stir in chicken stock, wine, honey, mustard, and Garam Masala.  Continue cooking for an additional 3 - 5 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, top pork chops with apple-shallot sauce.


Crumb Cake Muffins

Crumb Cake Muffin
New Jerseyans have a crazy love affair with crumb cake.  It is sold in every bakery, diner, and bagel shop across the state.  From north to south and east to west, New Jersey is overflowing with crumb cake and Jerseyites never seem to tire of eating it.  There are even heated discussions over steaming cups of coffee and huge pieces of crumb cake in the local diners as to which part is the most cherished and desirable - the cake or the crumb.

It can be a messy proposition to eat a piece of crumb cake.  All that crumb is crumby.  I am surely not complaining, but sometimes I like to take my treat on the road.  I decided it was time to develop a handheld version of this popular bakery treat.  It would need to be easily portable for a quick breakfast while heading out the door and sturdy enough to be packed in a lunch bag and still make it to school with crumb intact.  After some trial and error and lots of taste testing, the perfect Crumb Cake Muffins were born.  And my No Thank You Boy deemed them "the best muffin.....ever."  With a dense, moist cake-like muffin base and a heaping layer of crumb that both sinks slightly and graces the top of the muffin, the portable baked good does not disappoint.

Make a batch of Crumb Cake Muffins this weekend and decide for yourself which part of the muffin you like the best - the crumb or the cake.  It is a tough decision, but it will be tasty trying to decide.

Crumb Cake Muffins

makes 15 muffins

for the crumb topping--

2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 2/3 cups cake flour *
1 sticks butter, melted

for the muffins--

2/3 cup half and half
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 1/2 cups cake flour *
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut in chunks
2 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a regular sized muffin pan with muffin papers and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the crumb topping ingredients and stir to combine into large chunks. Set aside.

In a small bowl, add vinegar to half and half and set aside. In a large mixing bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. With mixer on low, add the butter chunks, one at a time. Mix for about 2 - 3 minutes until mixture resembles a coarse crumble. Add eggs, vanilla, and half and half mixture. Beat on medium high speed for about 1 - 2 minutes until smooth.

Fill muffin papers about 2/3 full and top with a generous amount of the crumb topping. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.  Store at room temperature for 3 - 4 days (if they will last that long ;) .

* - If you do not have cake flour, you can make your own with all purpose flour and cornstarch.  Here's the formula: Take one level cup of all-purpose flour, remove two tablespoons, and then add two tablespoons of cornstarch back in.  In other words, 1 cup all purpose flour - 2 tablespoons all purpose flour + 2 tablespoons cornstarch = 1 cup cake flour.


Curried Beef Lettuce Cups

Curried Beef Lettuce Wraps

Has it been a crazy busy day?  Then Curried Beef Lettuce Cups is just the recipe you need to add some peace and calm to your dinner time.  Incorporating Asian and Indian cuisines, Curried Beef Lettuce Cups pack a flavor punch from browned ground beef seasoned with garlic, fresh ginger root, serrano chilies, and slighty sweet and spicy curry powder.  The bright flavors of chopped fresh mint and basil and a squeeze of lemon juice further heighten the flavor of the dish.  Sweet, nutty, and mild Boston Bibb lettuce cups cradle the curried meat making the buttery and crispy lettuce an ideal accompaniment to the spicy meat.

Curried Beef Lettuce Cups is a flavorful entree that can be prepared in about 20 minutes.  Or better yet, make it a do-it-ahead meal and prepare it in the morning or even the day before.  A quick reheat in the microwave or on the stove top is all that is needed before you sit down at the dinner table to enjoy your home cooked meal.

Curried Beef Lettuce Cups

adapted from this recipe

serves 4

1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (1 - inch) piece ginger root, chopped
2 serrano chilies, remove half the seeds and chop chilies
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 heads Boston bibb lettuce
1/2 red pepper, diced

In a large saute pan, heat oils over medium high heat and add onion, garlic, ginger root, and serrano chilies.  Saute for about 5 - 7 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the ground beef and continue cooking until browned, about 5 - 6 minutes.  Stir frequently and break up and any large pieces of meat.  When browned, pour off any grease.  Add soy sauce and curry powder and stir to combine.  Cook for 3 - 4 minutes so the seasonings cook into the beef.

Meanwhile, separate the leaves of the lettuce to form cups.  Wash and dry thoroughly.

Stir the mint, basil and lemon juice into the cooked meat.  Spoon seasoned meat mixture into lettuce cups and top with the chopped red pepper.