Growing up, on any given night I could tell you what was for dinner at home. Baked chicken on Mondays, meat loaf or another beef dish on Wednesdays, pasta on Thursdays and Sundays, and homemade pizza or Stromboli on Fridays. Tuesdays and Saturdays were saved for going out to dinner, oftentimes to the very same restaurant for six months at a time.

While mom was a great cook and dad selected good restaurants to dine, I didn’t want this type of repetition in my home. So I made it point not to make the same meal twice and would frequently ask my two children what they would like for dinner. As a result of this quest to make different dishes regularly, I have collection of cookbooks that far exceeds my needs. In any event, I love the thought of having so many recipes at my fingertips as I love to whip up a great meal with family and friends.

So once again I will share with you some of my favorite recipes as well as my children. I love spinach; it’s my favorite veggie and strawberries are one of my favorite fruits, hence the spinach and strawberry recipes. Both of my kids love salmon. And while they will tell you they love it just plain, I am constantly trying different ways to prepare it. The carrot cake is everyone’s favorites. I hope you enjoy these and more to come!

Spinach and Strawberry Salad: In a large bowl, toss together 2 bunches spinach (rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces) and 4 cups sliced strawberries. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, and 1 tablespoon poppy seeds. Pour over the spinach and strawberries, and toss to coat. The carrot cake recipe is loved by all.

Sweet ‘n’ Hot Glazed Salmon: Preheat your oven’s broiler, and grease a broiling pan. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together 1 1/2 cups apricot nectar, 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Remove 1/4 cup of the glaze for basting, and set the remaining aside. Place 1 (3/4 pound) salmon filet on the greased broiling pan, and brush with glaze. Broil three inches from the heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork. Gently turn over once during cooking, and baste frequently during the last 4 minutes. Serve with remaining glaze.

Oven Roasted Asparagus: Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F. Place 1 bunch thin asparagus spears (trimmed) into a mixing bowl, and drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Toss to coat the spears, then sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional), 1 clove garlic, minced (optional), 1 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Arrange the asparagus onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the preheated oven until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes depending on thickness. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional) just before serving.

Carrot Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9X13 inch pan with non-fat cooking spray. In large mixing bowl, beat 6 egg whites. Slowly beat in 1 1/3 cups white sugar, then 1 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup skim milk, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons baking soda, and 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour. Stir in, one ingredient at a time, 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice, 2 cups shredded carrots, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes in the preheated oven. It is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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