Monday, March 30, 2015

Amy's Roasted Chicken

About seven years ago, I taught myself to roast a chicken. I've been roasting birds ever since. I consider it my signature dish. It's one way I know my French heritage is legit.

If someone asked me my favorite meal, it would be this: roasted chicken, green salad, roasted or scalloped potatoes, baguette, red wine.

The roasted chicken is super yummy and super easy. And sometimes I make it for Easter dinner.


Amy's Roasted Chicken

Whole chicken
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425. Remove bird from refrigerator and let sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in the microwave and mix together the dry ingredients. Brush the melted butter all over the bird. Press the salt and herb mixture into the bird, covering the entire bird. Place in a roasting pan breast side up. Cook for 15 minutes at 425. Reduce temp to 375 and cook for 50-60 minutes.

Carve. Or, in my case, have hubby carve. (He does a much better job.) Enjoy. Save carcass to make chicken stock and chicken soup.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring on Toast (featuring eggs and asparagus)

Last Friday, on the first day of Spring, Erin dropped by Chez George for a little culinary date. Erin brought her son Danny (he's adorbs!) and my daughters Lucy and Penny enjoyed their first "babysitting" stint. She also brought a yummy lemon buttermilk cake.

Erin and I decided to team up today to tell you about our main course, which we shall call Spring on Toast. I'd seen a friend's yummy-looking Facebook photo of toast topped with asparagus, sunnyside up eggs and goat cheese--all finished off under the broiler. (Shout out to you, Kate Y.!)

This dish was the perfect choice for the first day of Spring, a meatless Friday before Lent and for a dinner without the husbands, who are both opposed to "breakfast" for dinner. The hubbies are wrong, just wrong, btw.

Here was our conversation while eating.

Erin (while shoveling yolk-y bites of asparagus into her mouth at warp speed): OMG. Amy. This is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. It's, like, for realz Spring on Toast.

Amy (admiring the crisp-tender spears of asparagus blanketing the toast): It does taste like Spring. This asparagus is absolutely perfect. Seasonal vegetables rock my world.

Erin (now attempting to lick up the puddles of yolk pooling on her plate): I think I'm going to make this for lunch every day now.

Amy (moving her foot just in time to avoid Danny driving over it with a Barbie jeep): So good. So, so good. SO GOOD.

XOXO and let's get cooking!
Amy & Erin

Spring on Toast (featuring eggs and asparagus)
Olive oil
Cracked pepper
Multigrain bread, sliced
Goat cheese

Trim asparagus and place on cookie sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes or until slightly tender, but not overdone.

Butter each side of bread and "toast" each side in a skillet. Place toasted bread on a cookie sheet. Top with asparagus.

Cook eggs sunnyside up until the whites are set, just a couple minutes on medium or medium high. Slide eggs on top of the asparagus. Two per piece of toast. Note: This is a two person job and it helps if you and your culinary partner utter things like "careful, careful, careful" and "eek, eek, eek," as you try to coax the eggs on top of the toast, keeping them intact. Top eggs with goat cheese.

Broil on high until the goat cheese is softened and warmed through, about 5 minutes. (Watch carefully when you are broiling! Some broilers are hotter than the surface of the sun and will set your toast on fire in less than a minute. Erin may or may not know this from experience.) Remove and top with cracked pepper. Eat immediately.

P.S. Amy was kind enough to send the leftover Spring on Toast home with Erin, and it reheated beautifully. 425 degrees for 10 minutes and the egg was still runny and perfect.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Shrimp Curry Under Pressure

I don't love grocery shopping. But there are two things that make this chore a little easier for me to swallow.

First, a sale.

Second, and more important, is the ability to shop online, 24/7, and have someone else round up the goods and place them in my car when I wheel up at the curb after a long day at the office.

So when jumbo shrimp recently went on sale for $7 a pound, they went into my virtual grocery cart in a snap. Then I had to decide what to do with them. I had the loose idea of making a shrimp curry.

As I set out to prepare dinner, I realized one snag in my plan: I wasn't going to have time to prep the veggies, devein the shrimp and wait for the curry goodness to simmer away on the stovetop. Not unless I was down with eating after 8 p.m. and getting the kids to bed after 9 p.m. Sigh. This happens a lot as a working mom who is as ambitious putting dinner on the table as she is at the office. Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. The pressure!

Enter the pressure cooker. So aptly named. Where has that thing been all my life? I now believe every working mother needs a pressure cooker AND a slow cooker if she wants to put dinner on the table. The slow cooker is great for when you are thinking and planning ahead. The pressure cooker is great for when you forgot to plan and need dinner to be ready NOW! Both are life savers. Along with the personal shoppers at my local grocery store.


Shrimp Curry Under Pressure

Note that while the recipe below calls for a pressure cooker, you could make everything stovetop or use the slow cooker to cook everything but the shrimp.

3 carrots, peeled and diced
Green beans, trimmed (a handful or two will do)
15 oz. coconut milk (I use light)
Fresh basil
1 heaping teaspoon curry
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lime (or more if you want to garnish with lime)
Rice (I use jasmine)

Add carrots, green beans, coconut milk, a few basil leaves, and curry to the pressure cooker. Add salt and pepper to taste. Seal and set for six minutes on high.

While the veggies and coconut milk are cooking away in the pressure cooker, make the shrimp.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. After about a minute or so add a squirt of sriracha and another of honey. How much is up to you and your taste buds.  Cook until shrimp are pink and opaque, about three minutes total. Transfer shrimp to a plate.

When time is up on the pressure cooker, do a quick release. Add in juice of 1/2 lime to the coconut milk and veggies. Stir in shrimp and heat through. Serve over rice. Garnish with lime wedges and basil leaves. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Traditional Italian Meatballs

Meatballs – easy to make and easy to use. And oh so easy to eat. Pop a few on top of spaghetti or pizza, bake some into a lasagna or cover them in cheese inside a warm submarine roll.

Meatball subs are exactly what my family eats on frenetic nights when we are rushing from after school meetings, to sports practices to church activities and somehow need to sandwich (pun intended) in a quick and tasty meal.

One thing I love about making meatballs is that my boys can help. They get a kick out of rolling the meat mixture into golf ball-sized yumminess. My youngest, Sam, helped me with our latest batch. Meatballs freeze well, too. After one recent Christmas, my freezer was stocked-full for months with the dozens of meatballs left from the 90(!!) prepared by my Mom and Grampy.

So make a double batch and store some for later. When you need a fast meal, warm in the microwave, in the oven or in a pot of your favorite tomato sauce.

This is my family's traditional Italian meatball recipe, with one slight change. My Mom uses 1 cup of breadcrumbs for every 1 pound of meat. Too bready for me, so I use fewer breadcrumbs. Feel free to add your own touches here by using ground turkey or chicken, adding chopped onion, experimenting with different seasonings or swapping out some of the dry herbs for fresh herbs you have on hand.

Meatballs are very forgiving and fun – and that's the point!

Mangia! Mangia!

Traditional Italian Meatballs & Meatball Subs

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal (you can replace with beef or pork)
4 eggs
1 1/2 to 3 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Place meat in large bowl and make a well in the center. Add all other ingredients into the well and mix thoroughly. I recommend using your hands. The consistency should not be too wet or too dry.

Form large or small meatballs and place in foil pans or pans lined with aluminum foil. This is where the kids can help. If you make the meatballs the size of a golf ball you should get about 36.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or longer if your meatballs are larger.

If you plan to serve these meatballs with tomato sauce, let them simmer in the sauce for a bit before eating. This nicely flavors both the sauce and the meatballs.

Meatball Subs

4 submarine or hoagie buns or a large baguette (a softer bread works a little better here)
3 to 4 golf ball-sized meatballs per sandwich
Tomato sauce
Sliced or shredded provolone and/or mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice buns lengthwise. Scoop out some of the inner breading to make a pocket for the meatballs.

Place buns on cookie sheet. Put 3 to 4 meatballs and some sauce inside each bun. Top with cheese.

Toast sandwiches in oven until cheese melts. Enjoy with a green salad.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Cincy Chic...that's us, alright!

Honk! Honk!

Hear that? Yeah, I was just tooting my own horn for a minute there. (Did it sound a little like a migrating goose to you, too?)

I am absolutely tickled to announce that Hot Dinner Happy Home is featured in the Best Kept Secrets issue of Cincy Chic, an online magazine for the lovely ladies of Cincinnati. You can check out the article here to read up on Hot Dinner Happy Home and see a picture of me with my favorite haircut ever.

If you're joining us from Cincy Chic, welcome to the party! You're in for a good time. You can continue the conversation with Hot Dinner Happy Home over on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (Erin, Amy, Andrea) and Instagram.

And since we're the kind of gals who like to feed our friends, here's a Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffin for you.

Let's get cooking!

P.S. Hungry for more? Check out all of our recipes here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Stovetop Veggie Macaroni & Cheese

Hungry for delicious, creamy pasta that is as healthy as it is delicious? I've got you covered.

Want dinner on the table in 20 minutes? Well, here you go.

Trying to trick your kids into eating vegetables? Have I got the meal for you!

Stovetop Veggie Macaroni & Cheese. It's the answer to all of your dinner questions. While the pasta cooks, stir together a creamy sauce rich with nutty Parmesan cheese. Frozen butternut squash puree (so easy!) adds depth and that glowing orange hue that will make your kids think it came from a blue box. Next thing you know your whole family will be begging for seconds...picky kids and meat-loving husbands included.

Let's get cooking!

Stovetop Veggie Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from Kitchen Daily and inspired by Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Serves: 6

16 ounces small pasta (I used little shells.)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm milk (I used 2%.)
12 ounces frozen butternut squash puree*, thawed
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook until it begins to turn light golden brown and smells a bit toasty, about 2 minutes. Very slowly whisk in warm milk until it's smooth. (Using warm milk helps prevent lumps.) Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the milk begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Stir in squash puree. Then stir in Parmesan cheese until it's melted and creamy. Season sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Stir in cooked pasta and serve immediately.

*Frozen butternut squash puree is typically sold in a little box like frozen chopped spinach. It is fantastically convenient and delicious.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Turkey, Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

The warmer days of middle March mean my boys play outside as long as they can. As the nights remain cool, it's a good time for a spicy-sweet chili that fills their bellies without being too heavy.

This turkey, black bean and sweet potato combo is nourishing and the slightly honeyed taste of the potatoes hints of full-on spring.

This dinner is close to my heart because I first started making it when we moved from Cincinnati to Peoria. We spent three months in a cozy, turn-of-the-century cottage. Our temporary home offered a tighter space that fostered just the right amount of family closeness we needed during our transition to a new city.

Since then I've tweaked this recipe from its original – a skillet potpie with a cornbread topping. I never could get the cornbread to be anything buy mushy. Now I serve it on the side. And my boys eat more of the chili. Points for Mom!

Whenever I make this meal, I think of the start of our Peoria adventure (four years ago now!) and it warms my soul. I hope it makes your family feel all warm inside, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Turkey, Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili
Adapted from
Serves 6.

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup water
1 jumbo onion (about 1 pound) finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves finely chopped or 1 tablespoon jarred minced garlic
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 or 2 tablespoons canned chopped roasted green chilis or pickled jalapeño peppers, if you prefer more kick
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cans (14.5 ounce) no salt added, fire roasted or plain diced tomatoes, mostly drained
1 can (15 ounce) no salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese for topping

Place sweet potatoes and water in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and vent. Microwave on high for 5 minutes or until tender.

Using a deep 12-inch skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over a medium-high flame. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. (Don't worry – while this looks like a ton of onions, they melt down and add a subtle flavor to the chili.)

Add garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Add turkey, salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, breaking up turkey into small pieces.

When turkey is lightly browned, add roasted chili or jalapeño peppers, chili powder, cumin and the sweet potatoes with their liquid. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes while stirring.

Add tomatoes, beans and black pepper and heat until bubbling. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Dish up chili into bowls. Top with cilantro and cheese.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Midwestern Vegetable-Beef Soup

I have been on a big soup kick. This is in part due to the colder than usual winter here in Charlotte and how we Southerners do hate to be cold. Bless our hearts. It’s also due to my new love — my pressure cooker — which makes preparing soup so easy and fast. The chopping is the most time intensive part. My sous chef daughters Lucy, 8, and Penny, 6, are the perfect assistants.

This soup is inspired by my mom’s, which I grew up eating. It took me just 40 years to give it a whirl in my own kitchen. I call it Midwestern vegetable-beef soup, because I grew up in Ohio and it reminds me of Mom.

NOTE: The following directions call for the pressure cooker. You could also cook everything on the stovetop. I may be finishing my second bowl and packing up the leftovers when you sit down to eat, but please carry on.


Midwestern Vegetable-Beef Soup

1 pound lean ground beef

3 large carrots, peeled and diced ½” inch thick
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
15 oz. diced tomatoes, with juices
32 oz. beef broth
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup peas

Using the sautee setting on your pressure cooker, cook the ground beef, adding some salt and pepper in the process. Do not drain. (If you are  not using lean meat, you might want to drain off  a bit of the fat.)

Add all of the veggies, except the corn and peas, as well as the thyme, bay leaf, diced tomatoes and broth. Cover and cook on high pressure for six minutes.

When time is up, do a quick release on the pressure cooker and remove the lid when it is safe to do so. Remove bay leaf, add in the frozen corn and peas and allow the soup to heat through.
Serve and enjoy!

PS: Don’t have all of these veggies on hand? Use what you have. My neighbor followed up on my version with her own variation, which involved her stovetop (no pressure cooker,) green beans and cabbage. She shared some leftovers with me. Yum. You could even add a cup of pasta like farfalle to make beef-vegetable-noodle soup. If using pasta, toss uncooked noodles into the pressure cooker with the other the ingredients.
PPS: Vegetarian? By all means, skip the meat and use vegetable broth instead.

Friday, March 13, 2015


I can't believe that I've been writing this here blog since September 2010. I've cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Conquered the crock pot and canning. Baked cakes and cookies, brownies and pies. Prepared for holidays. Introduced my son.

And I have loved every minute of it.

But it's time to shake things up here at Hot Dinner Happy Home. It's time to invite some friends to the party. Starting on Monday, two of my culinary comrades will be joining me here at HDHH.

Amy and Andrea are kitchen dynamos who are sure to impress you with their cooking prowess.

Amy is a Francophile who dabbles in vegan cuisine and loves to get in the kitchen with her two daughters.

Andrea comes from an Italian family and makes a mean meatball for her husband and sons in Illinois.

For the most part, Amy will be posting on Mondays and Andrea will be posting on Wednesdays. I'll be ringing in the weekends with Friday posts. And if you want to see what you'll be getting yourself into next week, learn ten scintillating things about all three of us in the "Meet the Ladies" section here.

They are funny. They can cook. Together, we're whipping up some fun.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Irish Soda Bread

When we were living in Milwaukee, our local grocery store made raisin-studded, sugar-crusted Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick's Day every year, and it blew my mind. It wasn't exactly authentic, but it was dang good.

Since I couldn't walk down the street to the store to pick up soda bread this year, I set out to duplicate it at home. Traditional buttermilk and all-purpose flour for simplicity. Baking soda and baking powder for a little rise, salt for flavor, and sugar because that's how I roll. (I said it wasn't authentic, okay?) Studded with raisins and sprinkled with coarse sugar crystals to guild the lily.

I was giddy with excitement when I pulled this baby out of the oven. The scent alone was absolutely tantalizing. The sugar glittered on the golden crust like treasure at the end of a rainbow.

So I ate a quarter of the loaf for dinner.

Tender and rich with just enough sweetness. Raisins in every bite. Crisp with sugar crystals. Holy cow. The luck of the Irish is with you today, folks, because this bread is good.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Irish Soda Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons milk (You might not need it all.)
1 tablespoon coarse sugar crystals (I used Sugar in the Raw.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir in melted butter until the mixture looks crumbly. Stir in buttermilk and raisins until the dough just comes together in a shaggy mixture.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured counter. Knead just until the dough comes together in a smooth ball, about 10 times. Pat dough into an 8" circle and place on prepared baking sheet. Brush top of dough with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Use a knife to cut a large "X" on the top of the loaf.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Ooooh, baby. Today's recipe is easy.

Speaking of...I've noticed something about myself. Whenever I really like a recipe, my first qualifier is simplicity. After that comes deliciousness. It all speaks to my laziness and love of TV. Less time on dinner = more time with the Real Housewives. I may not be great at math, but that's the kind of equation I can get behind.

Anyway, as I was saying, today's recipe is easy. And delicious. I'm usually dubious about dump-and-stir crockpot recipes, so my first bite of Slow Cooker Pulled Pork was tentative. But my concerns disappeared as easily as this tender, fall-apart pork disappeared into my belly.

Next time you're feeling—how can I put this—less than ambitious, pop some pork into your slow cooker and tell your family you were sweating over the stove all day. They'll believe you. And then they'll offer to clean the dishes as they lick barbecue sauce off their sticky fingers.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

18 ounce bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder roast
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Salt and pepper
Hamburger buns, for serving (optional)
Simple Coleslaw, for serving (optional, recipe below)

In your slow cooker, stir together barbecue sauce and chili powder. Add the pork roast and roll it around so it's coated in sauce. Nestle the onions in with the pork. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or until the pork is tender and literally falls apart when you poke it with a fork. (Mine only took 7 hours, but my slow cooker tends to be on the speedy side.)

Carefully remove the pork from the slow cooker. Use forks to shred it into bite-sized pieces. Use a spoon to skim fat from the remaining sauce in the slow cooker. Stir as much sauce* as you like into the pulled pork and season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, serve on hamburger buns topped with Simple Coleslaw (recipe below).

*A note about the sauce: If you're planning ahead for leftovers, consider leaving some of the pulled pork plain. I used the leftovers without sauce to make Cuban sandwiches and quesadillas.

Simple Coleslaw

4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
16 ounce bag coleslaw mix (or feel free to shred your own cabbage)
Salt and pepper

Stir together mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, and sugar. Stir in coleslaw mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (At this point it will look a little bit dry.) Refrigerate at least one hour or until ready to serve. (As it sits the cabbage releases moisture and the coleslaw gets creamier. I've found that it gets soggy if you add too much mayo at the beginning, and I like my slaw crunchy. Feel free to stir in more mayo or Greek yogurt at this point if it's too dry for your taste.)