Welcome to Gramma's Kitchen where you'll find lots of yummy recipes, cooking secrets/hints/shortcuts and my opinions on foodie stuff.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Boxed Dinner Kit SURPRISE!!

As a general rule, I do not like nor use boxed dinner kits, i.e. Hamburger/chicken Helper. Overall, I think they all pretty much taste the same. When I do use one (generally to prepare a very quick skillet meal for my grandkids or at their specific request), I share the Semi-Homemade philosphy of Sandra Lee where the kit is simply the base of the dish, with many additions to make it palatable like fresh diced onions, celery, carrots, garlic and other spices. I NEVER make one just as it is --yuck!!

However, of late I've noticed some different boxed dinner kits at the local grocery store --Wanchai Ferry and Romano's Macaroni Grill. I thought "Why not give them a try?" I purchased one of each a few months ago, but just haven't been motivated to use them...until last night. I had two healthy boneless, skinless chicken breasts thawed out in the fridge and wanted to do something different with them.

I didn't want to have to pull out a cookbook or do a search on the internet to find a new/different recipe. I just wanted something different but quick and easy. Searching through the pantry I pulled out the Romano's Macaroni Grill Chicken Piccata dinner kit and figured I'd give it a try. Since this was the first time using one of these I wanted to prepare it exactly as instructed on the box -- no special additions or personal touches. Well, let me tell you I was very pleasantly surprised with the results. Following the directions on the box - to the "T" --the resulting dish was VERY GOOD. Where most " -- Helper" dinners tend to taste pretty much the same with little variation and are basically designed to appeal to childish and unsophisticated palates, the Macaroni Grill Chicken Picata kit contains a cooking wine and sauce mix that resulted in an unexpectedly GROWN UP taste. I do not believe this was created with kids in mind, although my grandkids did love it (of course, they have a fairly well-developed palate - after all they are MY grandkids). The directions were well written and easy to follow. From start to plating - about 20 minutes! As prepared it is relatively low in calories - about 280 per 1 cup serving - and fat - 1g. Other nutritional data: 24g total Carbs, 510mg sodium, 4g Protein and 1g Dietary Fiber with 0g Cholesterol. And like I said - it was very good...lots of flavor...a wonderfully easy and tasty change of pace.

So I guess what I'm saying is this: If you want to try something EASY, DIFFERENT, WHOLESOME, SATISFYING AND TASTY, I highly recommend you try the Romano's Macaroni Grill CHICKEN PACATA boxed dinner kit. Do be aware that I don't think most kids will like it because of the wine flavor...but if your kids like more "grownup flavors" they just might like this too.

SPECIAL NOTE: I like my sauces just a tad bit thicker, so when I make this again, I believe I will be adding about 1/4 to 1/3 cup more water and a teaspoon of corn starch to thicken.

Peace all...and I'm outta' here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Best Darn Green Beans Ever!!!

Sunday was my father's 75th birthday and I cooked him a big dinner. Of course everyone loved ALL the dishes, but my grandson, Trevell, especially loved the Green Beans and insisted that I post the recipe here. These fresh green beans go wonderful with just about anything and are even good all by themselves. And just for the record, you can omit the butter and/or bacon and they are still very, very good!! But as Julia Child always claimed - "Everything is better with butter" and Emeril says "PORK FAT - YES!!"


1 to 1-1/2 pounds of fresh green beans
1 to 2 tblsp on fresh minced garlic
2 tblsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tblsp real butter (optional)
1 or 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1" pieces (optional)
1 teaspoon Lemon Pepper Seasoning
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Wash green beans and remove the stem ends leaving the rest of the bean whole. Parboil in salted water for about 10 minutes (until "crispy tender"). Drain. (If using the bacon, fry in a large skillet or heavy dutch oven until fat is rendered out) Add Olive Oil (and butter if desired) and minced garlic. Saute about 60 seconds or until garlic become quite fragrant. Add the drained green beans to the hot pan and toss (or stir) to coat with fats. Add Lemon Pepper and Salt/Black Pepper to taste. Continue to saute/toss over medium high heat for about 5-8 minutes. Turn off heat, cover and allow to sit/steam for another 10 minutes. Serves 4 (large servings) to 6 (small servings).

Your family/guests are going to love these so much you may have to increase everything in order to serve 6.

Peace...and I'm outta' here.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Today I just wanted to comment on Sugar Substitutes. Since the doctor scared me last July with the threat of DIABETES, I've cut out sugary things: no more sodas (except for 0 calorie Pepsi Max), or koolaid or Sobes...no sugar in my iced tea or on my cereal. The thing is, I hate ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS; they all leave an after-taste in my mouth; and everything I've read about them leads me to believe that long-term use of them is harmful to our health - perhaps just as harmful as the real thing.

So, after doing a bit of research into the matter, I thought I'd try some of the new NATURAL Sugar Substitutes on the market. I started with "Sun Crystals" which is actually a combination of Stevia plant extracts and cane sugar - it has 5 calories per serving. I liked it...it had no aftertaste and was sweet just like sugar.

Now I'm using "Truvia". The package states that it is a natural calorie-free sweetener made with rebiana, the "best tasting part of the stevia leaf --sweetness from nature..." Although it is calorie free, one serving (1 packet) does have 3g of Total Carbohydrates. But let me tell you, it is good. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to cut out sugar calories. Of course, I am not a doctor or anything, but if your doctor says it's okay, give it a try.

Anyway, that's my opinion, for whatever it's worth. Peace...and I'm outta' here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dinner for a New Friend

Tomorrow I am going to visit a new friend and I'm going to cook him a special dinner. He's buying all the ingredients and I'm putting it all together. The menu will be: Baby Butter Lettuce salad w/Italian Dressing, Loaded potato cassarole, fresh green beans sauteed with bacon and garlic and Pork Chops smothered with Garlic-Rosemary Cream. Dessert is his choice. I'm really looking forward to this dinner.

Many people say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach...usually I find this to be true. I'll let you all know...(^;^)

Anyway, here is the recipe for the Pork Chops.
2 tbs Olive oil
1-1/2 tbs coursely chopped garlic
1 tbs fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp plus 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sour cream
4 bone-in pork loin chops (1" thick)
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
Place 1 tbs of olive oil and the garlic in a large ovenproof skillet; cook over medium heat 30 to 60 seconds or until fragrant. Place garlic, rosemary, pepper and 1/8 tsp salt in a mini food processor; process until a thick paste forms. Combine this paste and the sour cream in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat oven to 400*F. Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Heat remaining 1 tbs of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook pork 3 minutes or until browned on bottom. Turn and remove from heat. Spread 1 tbs of the garlic cream onto the browned side of each porek chop; place skillet in the oven and bake 7 to 9 minutes or until pale pink in the center.
Place pork on a plate and cover loosely with foil. Add broth to the skillet and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce by half and thickened. Drizzle over pork chops and serve. Serves 4.
Peace...and I'm outta' here.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back on track

Well I must say I am pleased that I did not gain any weight during the holidays!!! But I know I did not eat properly either. Thank God I've learned how to eat a lot less when the food is "bad" - and by bad I mean Yummy!! All the cookies, buffets, homemade candy, etc -- if I hadn't already been learning how to practice portion control I would have gained 10 lbs. But I didn't. I actually lost 2 lbs over the holidays!! And now I am definitely back on track.

It is very hard for a foodie/food lover like myself to learn how to consistently practice self-control. But I am amazing myself and I hope to inspire my daughter and overweight friends to learn to do the same.

Anyway, no recipes yet...still kind of chilling. But I can feel a cooking episode coming on.....

Peace...and I'm outta' here.

P.S. I've been wondering if there is really anyone out there interested in anything I have to say or recipes I want to share. Oh well...if there is not, then I'm just doing this for the pleasure of writing for my daughter or grandkids. Maybe they will read this someday.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Eve Party

Wow - the New Year's Eve Speaker Meeting, Dance and Buffet was a huge success!! I made food enough for about 150 to 200 people. I put out a buffet of all the recipes I've posted here, except for the dessert items. Everyone loved the food. I couldn't put it out fast enough. All the days of shopping and preparation and it was all almost gone in an hour. The biggest hits were the bacon-wrapped chicken bites, cranberry meatballs and loaded potato cassarole. We (my committee members and I) also made homemade dips (french onion and spinach), meat/cheese & vegetable trays, salami wraps, salami/cheese/olive picks, chips, crackers, cheese balls/spreads, dinner rolls, 120 devilled eggs and salsa. At the end of the night, all that was left was vegggies and chips/crackers. Another great event!!!

The next event I'm cooking for is the Valentine's Day Speaker Meeting, All-you-can-eat Spaghetti Feed and Dance. I'll share my personal recipe for the sauce as we get closer to the event.

In the meantime, I'm taking a much needed rest and doing no more cooking other than for my own family. Check back later for some home cooking recipes.

Peace all...Happy New Year...and I'm outta' here.