Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Grilled Pineapple & Watermelon Salad

I do love to grill and to me, there is nothing tastier than grilled fruit.

With pineapples and watermelon in season, I figured why not? 

Watermelon firms up over the flames and gains a mellow flavor. The pineapple becomes caramelized and even juicier.

The result was so tasty I ate nearly half the bowl myself. This smoky sweet side dish is a great partner to some spicy blackened grilled chicken. 

The next time you fire up the grill, give this a try.

Mangia! Mangia!

Grilled Pineapple & Watermelon Salad

1/4 cup olive oil 
1 small pineapple, outer skin removed, cored and quartered
5 thick watermelon slices, cut from 1/4 of a large melon
1 bunch green onions, trimmed
1-2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped

Heat grill to medium. Brush both sides of each piece of fruit with olive oil. Brush green onions, too.

Place each piece of pineapple and watermelon on grill. Place onions perpendicular to the grill grates.

Cook for 2 minutes or until nice char marks appear. Remove green onions and set aside to cool. Lower heat if fruit starts to burn. 

Turn over fruit and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. 

Remove fruit and let cool until you can handle it. Cut off watermelon rind. Dice watermelon, pineapple and green onions into bite-sized pieces. 

Toss fruit and onions in medium bowl. Sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Simple Cucumber Dill Salad

We've been eating lots of salads lately for a few reasons:
  • My kitchen is a work in progress. 
  • We have baseball practice or games almost every night. 
  • Our days are jam packed, too.
I know you fellow moms can relate. Here's my morning yesterday:

8 a.m. – Take dog for grooming appointment.
8:30 a.m. – Take Sam to baseball clinic, go to bank.
10 a.m. – Pick up Sam and drop off Max at baseball clinic. Go to post office and dry cleaners.
11 a.m. – Take Sam to saxophone lesson.
12 p.m. – Pick up Max from baseball clinic.
12:15 p.m. – Pick up dog from groomer.

Summer salads are easy, refreshing and can often be made ahead. One of my faves is Chick Pea Salad. If you make that and have some leftover dill, you can use it in this cucumber recipe.

Do you have a favorite summer salad? Let us know what it is!

Mangia! Mangia!

Simple Cucumber Dill Salad

2 English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, (about 5 or 6) sliced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and gently stir to combine. Let refrigerate for at least 1 hour to help the flavors blend.

Salt individual servings to taste.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork

When I wrote my last post at the end of March, I apologized for falling off the face of the earth because of our business move. Well I fell back off. As soon as we got settled in our new office, life got a little crazier. I was feeling relatively terrible because apparently morning sickness and exhaustion are twice as bad when you're pregnant with twins.

Yep, you heard that right. The husband and I are having identical twin boys! They'll arrive sometime in October, and we couldn't be happier. Especially now that I'm in my second trimester and eating more than crackers and cheese.

While the nausea reigned supreme, my family was subsisting on mac and cheese from a box while I laid on the couch like a cranky beached whale. But I'm back in the kitchen! And I was craving pork like you wouldn't believe.

I found this recipe on my Pinterest board, and immediately headed to the grocery store. When we sat down to dinner, I wasn't disappointed. The entire family demolished this meal; it is absolutely delicious. And you can prep everything ahead of time! The Pineapple Coleslaw might seem like an unnecessary extra step, but it's worth it. I ate my weight in slaw. The kids even helped me stir together the dressing.

If you're looking for an easy, delicious, filling, make-ahead meal, give Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork a whirl. You're whole family will love it. Guaranteed.

Let's get cooking!

Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

1 1/4 cups pineapple juice
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
3 pounds pork shoulder roast
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons water
Chopped cilantro, for serving
Coconut Rice (recipe below), for serving
Pineapple Slaw (recipe below), for serving

Mix together pineapple juice, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, sriracha, and ginger. Set sauce aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add pork and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Add pork to slow cooker. Pour sauce over pork. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until pork falls apart when you poke it with a fork. (My slow cooker tends to run hot, and my pork was finished cooking in 6 hours.) Remove pork to a plate and shred into bite-sized pieces.

Whisk together cornstarch and water. Whisk into cooking liquid in slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker to high and take off the lid. Allow the sauce to simmer until it's thickened, about 15-30 minutes. Stir shredded pork back into liquid and allow it to warm through again. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with Coconut Rice and Pineapple Slaw.

Pineapple Slaw
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
1 cup pineapple chunks (fresh or canned)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Stir together mayo, pineapple juice, yogurt, vinegar, brown sugar, zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cabbage, pineapple, and cilantro. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Coconut Rice
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
Pinch salt
1 cup rice

Bring water, coconut milk, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until rice is firm but tender. (If you have one, you can certainly use a rice cooker in place of cooking rice on the stove.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Old-Fashioned Cream Pie

I rip recipes from magazines (that I own, not say in waiting rooms) all the time. If I never tore another recipe from People, Real Simple and more, I'd easily spend the next couple years cooking my way through my "to make" recipe pile.

Anyhow, this year for Easter the kids and I decided a cream pie sounded tasty. I used a recipe from the June 2013(!) issue of Ladies' Home Journal. It was worth the wait, so give it a try sooner rather than later.


PS: What drew me to the LHJ recipe was the headline on the article — "The Pie That Made My Dad Propose." Here's a version of that story, originally published in LHJ. And below is a piece of art that ran with the story.

Old-Fashioned Cream Pie

12 graham crackers, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 store-bought graham cracker pie crust (For less than $2 and a lot less hassle, this is my preferred option.)

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
 2 1/2 cups cold milk
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Fresh berries for serving

For crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend graham cracker pieces and sugar until finely ground. Add butter and pulse until combined. Set aside 1/4 cup of graham cracker mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into bottom and side of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake until lightly browned, about seven minutes. Cool while you prepare the filling.

For filling: In a 3-quart saucepan, whisk together sugar, salt and cornstarch. Add milk and egg yolks and whisk to combine. Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture begins to bubble and then cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nutmeg and butter. Place over and ice bath to cool slightly before pouring into prepared crust. Cover pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm — about 5 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with reserved graham cracker crumbs and serve with cold berries.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cilantro Walnut Pesto

Pesto is one of my addictions. I love it on pasta, steak, chicken, shrimp, vegetables -- it's so good on almost anything!

For years I've been a traditionalist, sticking to the basil, pine nut and Parmesan cheese varieties. I usually serve pesto swirled into angel hair pasta, as a side dish to grilled steak.

Boy, was I missing out. Turns out many fresh herbs and vegetables deliciously transform when you whip them into a pesto with some nuts and olive oil. Think fresh peas, or even trimmed broccoli stalks.

This cilantro version is the healthiest pesto I've ever encountered – no oil, no cheese. Trust me, you won't even notice.

I could not stop eating it. First on pasta, then later as a dip for veggies. It's nutty, earthy and fresh – with a little zip! – all at the same time.

If you're ready to welcome spring, add this cilantro walnut spread to your menu.

Mangia! Mangia!

Cilantro Walnut Pesto
Inspired by a recipe from Dr. Andrew Weil

1 cup walnut pieces
2 heaping cups cilantro leaves, stems removed
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup water

Using a food processor, finely grind walnuts.

Add cilantro, jalapeño pepper, salt, vinegar and 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Blend until combined and smooth. Add more water to thin the pesto mixture.

Serve over pasta, top grilled meats or use as a dip.

To dress up this pesto, you could add a drizzle of olive oil.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Twice-Baked Creamy Chive Potatoes

My son Sam is a big fan of my Aunt Dottie's twice baked potatoes. The last time she made then, Sam ate 3! Somehow, she gets her filling to be like velvet. When Sam requested these as a side dish recently, I went to work.

Unfortunately for me, I couldn't catch my aunt on the phone or by text. After reviewing lots of online recipes, it seems the trick is the right combination of butter, milk, cream cheese and sour cream mixed into the cooked potatoes.

And since I was experimenting, I made some of the potatoes with chives to suit my own tastes, leaving some plain for my kids.

Sam declared these "pretty good" but Aunt Dottie still wears the cooking crown in his eyes.

Mangia! Mangia!

Twice-Baked Creamy Chive Potatoes

6 medium to large baking potatoes, like Idaho or Russet
1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Kosher or table salt
2/3 cup of milk
3/4 cup of butter at room temperature, cut into chunks
1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, cut into chunks
3/4 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 2 tablespoons snipped chives (or other fresh herb), plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Scrub potatoes and dry well. Prick all over with a knife. Lightly coat with olive oil, then rub with salt. Bake for about 1 hour, or until potatoes are soft. An alternative method is to cook potatoes in microwave first, until soft. Then transfer to oven for about 20 minutes until the skin crisps up.

When cooked, remove from oven and let cool until you are able to handle the potatoes but they are still warm.

Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Carefully slice each potato in half. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp and place into a large mixing bowl. Be sure to leave a thin layer of potato inside each potato skin for 5 of the potatoes, so that they make little boats. For the 6th potato, you just want the cooked potato pulp and you can discard the skin.

Combine milk, butter, cream cheese and sour cream and garlic powder with potato pulp. Use a potatoes masher or electric mixer to combine until creamy. If potatoes are too starchy or stiff, add more sour cream or cream cheese (your choice) until you get the consistency you want.

Add salt, pepper and chives or other fresh herb and stir to combine.

Arrange potato boats on a baking sheet and scoop filling into a mound in each potato skin. Sprinkle with additional snipped chives.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven, until the top of potato filling is slightly browned. Remove from oven, arrange on a pretty platter and serve.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Creamy Tuna Avocado Salad

Baseball season is underway for my two boys, and that means I need to be able to serve up fast and easy meals – or get used to eating hot dogs and concession stand popcorn every other day!

A video for this recipe caught my eye on Facebook, so I gave it a try (with a few little tweaks). The result? Super yummy and super quick to prepare.

Another bonus? By swapping out the mayo used in traditional tuna salad for avocado, you get a healthier dish.

Mangia! Mangia!

Creamy Tuna Avocado Salad
Inspired by this recipe from Natasha's

1 large can (12 ounces) and 1 small can (3 to 4 ounces) tuna in water, drained
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 medium, ripe, avocados peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1/2 to 1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 large lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste

**Note on the salt: If you are making this ahead, or if you are planning on leftovers, do not mix in the salt. Instead, salt each serving separately. The salt will make the cucumbers release water, which will make the salad soggy after a few hours.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Pour lemon juice and olive oil over ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve alone or on top of mixed greens.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Savory Spring Egg Cups

These breakfast treats remind me of the Italian Easter meat pie (pizza rustica) that my family would devour every spring. That hearty dish (best consumed cold) combines hard boiled eggs, mozzarella, prosciutto and ricotta cheese in a flaky double pie crust.

I still hope to make one of those savory pies before summer hits, but today's sweet little recipe satisfied my craving.  Better yet – my boys liked it. I served these egg cups for dinner and the leftovers held up great the next day. Lunch for me; hearty after-school snack for them.

You can use your favorite breakfast meat, like sausage or ham. I used bacon because it imparts a taste similar to the prosciutto used in my family's traditional Easter morning meal.

These would make a great addition to an Easter brunch menu, especially if you have extra eggs in the fridge. Or they might be a good way to use that leftover holiday ham.

Mangia! Mangia!

Savory Spring Egg Cups
Inspired by a video from

2 sheets puff pastry dough, thawed
Small container ricotta cheese
6 slices precooked bacon, chopped
1 dozen eggs
Garlic salt
Fresh ground pepper

**Cut recipe in half if you don't need 12 egg cups.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a large 12-tin muffin pan with cooking spray. If you like, line each tin with paper or parchment muffin liners.

Place 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry on lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to flatten into a square shape. Repeat with second pastry sheet.

Cut each pastry sheet into 6 squarish rectangles. Push 1 square of pastry into each prepared muffin tin. Flute edges of pastry so they stand up slightly. Spray pastry with cooking spray.

Fill each muffin cup with 1 or 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Push down gently with back of a spoon.

Crack one egg into each muffin cup. Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.

Place in preheated oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cook a few minutes less if you prefer a less solid yolk. (You can test the yolk with a toothpick.)

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Tastes great served warm or cold. Fresh berries make a nice side dish. Perfect for any meal!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sheet pan Lemon Chicken with Olives & Capers

Sheet pan suppers are a great way to whip up a savory meal in less than an hour. This recipe is one I made with items I had on hand.

My pantry is usually stocked with olives and capers so this was a good way to put them to work.

The bonus with this dinner is that as the olives cook they release their oils, which blends with the juices from the lemon and chicken to make a nice sauce.

Mangia! Mangia!

Sheet pan Lemon Chicken with Olives & Capers

2 pounds of chicken pieces (I used an assortment of boneless thighs, skin-on legs, and boneless skinless breasts.)
1 cup whole green olives, pitted and stuffed with pimento
1 cup whole kalamata olives, pitted
1 cup whole black olives, pitted
2-3 tablespoons capers
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, sliced
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
Spaghetti for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread 1 tablespoon on bottom of a shallow sheet pan. Place chicken pieces on pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a bowl mix olives, capers, lemon juice and the rest of the olive oil. Pour evenly over chicken pieces. Top with lemon slices.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until chicken is browned and cooked through. Baste chicken pieces and stir olives occasionally during cooking time.

Serve chicken alone with capers, olives and pan sauce or on top of spaghetti.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Fettuccine with Asparagus and Goat Cheese

Hello from this long lost blogger! Guys, I'm sorry I fell off the face of the earth for a while there. Life got away from me. The husband and I run a small business, and we recently moved to a new office. It was way more work than I anticipated. Like WAY more. Needless to say, blogging to a back seat to...survival.

Although my house was a giant disaster area (please don't open my closet door), I did manage to feed my family. Admittedly some nights we ate crackers and cheese for dinner, but when I was feeling slightly more ambitious, I relied on HDHH classics.

Now that it's Spring, and asparagus is on sale practically every week, I figured it was time to make Fettuccine with Asparagus and Goat Cheese.

This is totally a 20 minute meal. And it's easy clean up. Cook the pasta and asparagus in the same pot, then stir in tangy goat cheese, grainy mustard, and fresh dill for a creamy, Spring-y sauce. So easy and delicious, even I could manage it!

Dinner? You've got this!

Let's get cooking!

Fettuccine with Asparagus and Goat Cheese
Originally posted in April 2013
Serves: 6

1/3 cup pine nuts
1 pound fettuccine
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut crosswise into thirds
5 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pine nuts on a rimmed baking dish and bake for about 5 minutes, until they are golden brown and smell toasty. (Alternatively, you can toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, but I always burn nuts when I toast them on the stove. Feel free to live dangerously, though.)

Cook the fettuccine to al dente according to package directions in a large pot of salted boiling water. Add the asparagus during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.

Drain the pasta and return pasta and asparagus to the pot. Stir in goat cheese, mustard, dill, and toasted pine nuts. Add pasta cooking water and stir until the cheese is melted and the pasta is evenly coated with sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

4-Layer Birthday Cake

Both of my boys celebrate their birthdays in March – just nine days apart. And each year they get to pick what kind of birthday cake they want.

In the past we've done the traditional chocolate cake with chocolate frosting or yellow cake with chocolate frosting. One year lemon cake topped with fruit was the highlight.

This year, my oldest (now age 11) spotted a video on social media of a four-layer chocolate cake filled with caramel and chocolate, covered with a chocolate glaze and drizzled with white chocolate.

He showed it to me once, but apparently watched it himself multiple times. When we couldn't find the video a few weeks later to make sure we knew how to make his chosen birthday dessert, he was able to describe every step in full detail.

For me, the best part about this dessert was the fun of making it with my boys and my brother, who was in town for a visit.

When my youngest's birthday rolled around a week later, we made the cake again, with a few variations to suit his tastes. He (now age 8) wanted a yellow butter cake – with Nutella as the filling between every layer. I don't even want to imagine the calorie count!

We tried a mirror glaze on the first cake, but it required lots of ingredients and didn't thicken on its own, so we ended up adding chocolate spread to it. The second time around we went with a simpler chocolate topping that was much easier to work with.

If you try this out, let us know what you use for the filling between your cake layers.

Mangia! Mangia!

4-Layer Birthday Cake

1 box of your favorite cake mix or your favorite recipe for two-layer cake
Caramel spread and chocolate spread
Nutella hazelnut chocolate spread
Chocolate glaze (see recipe below)
Chocolate shavings
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
Optional: Raspberries

Prepare cake according to package directions, using 2, 8-inch pans. Bake cake per instructions. Let cool, then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

Once cake layers are fully cool, carefully slice each one in half lengthwise, using a serrated knife. You will end up with four cake layers.

Set one cake layer on a cutting board.

Alternatively, you can use an angel food cake pan with the center piece removed to build your cake and hold it in place. (We tried this the first time around, but the layers slide around inside the pan. If you use this method, top the cake pan with a cutting board and invert so allow layered cake to slide out before glazing.)

Putting the cake together on a cutting board allowed us to gently move layers into place if they started to slip.

Also, if you have a cake lifter, life will be easier as you assemble and glaze the cake. You can also use a cutting board to help move and lift the cake layers.

Using a flexible spatula, gently spread filling on the bottom layer of cake. Top with second cake layer and spread on the second filling. Place third cake layer and spread the top of it with your third filling choice. Top with final piece of cake.

Transfer the cutting board with cake to try refrigerator so that it can firm up a little while you make the chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Pinch salt

Place chocolate chips and salt in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil, then remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips. Whisk until smooth. Let cool until mixture becomes slightly thickened.

Now it's time to glaze the cake. It helps to have a second set of hands for the glazing.

Set a large bowl on the counter and place a wire rack on top of the bowl. Carefully transfer the cake from the cutting board to the center of the wire rack. Slowly pour glaze over the cake, ensuring that glaze covers all sides.

You might want to repeat the process to make sure every centimeter of the cake is thoroughly coated in chocolate.

If you do, carefully lift wire rack with cake and set the wire rack on the cutting board. Pour excess glaze from large bowl back into small bowl. Replace wire rack and cake on top of large bowl and slowly pour glaze over cake again.

(My boys did close inspections of each cake we made. It took three pours of glaze to get their seal of approval!)

Let glaze drip off cake. Carefully transfer cake to a cake plate. Dust with chocolate shavings. Return cake to refrigerator to allow glaze to harden.

Place white chocolate chips in a small bowl and melt in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and heat another 30 seconds if needed. Transfer melted chocolate to a small plastic sandwich bag and seal. Gently squeeze melted chocolate into one corner of bag. Snip a tiny hole in the corner.

Drizzle top of cake with white chocolate. Top with raspberries if desired.

This is the butter yellow cake filled wth Nutella. Luckily, I took a photo before we ate it all!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Cucumber Vodka Gimlet

The vodka gimlet is my drink. Has been for years. And it doesn't even have to be fancy. Vodka and Rose's Lime Juice on the rocks is perfect, especially when made for me by my husband Jeff. But so much sugar. As for fancy ones, my favorite is the Market Gimlet, made with cucumber vodka, at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Cucumber in cocktails = so refreshing.

Anyhow, I recently decided it was time to make a less sugary vodka gimlet inspired by the cocktail I used to have while on biz trips to the West Coast. I opted to do this on a Tuesday afternoon. And why not? That's the beauty of working from home and being the boss.


Cucumber Vodka Gimlet
(Makes two gimlets)
6 ounces vodka
8 slices seedless cucumber (or regular cucumber with seed section removed)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar (granulated or powdered)

Muddle the cucumber with the sugar in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. (I used the handle of a wooden spoon.) Add the rest of the ingredients and half a cup of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into two glasses. Garnish with slices of cucumber or a lime wedges.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cioppino (Seafood Soup)

Cioppino is an Italian seafood soup that originated in San Francisco. I love to eat it but had never prepared the meal myself – until this past weekend.

I wish I hadn't waited so long. The dish is easy to cook and you can vary the fish and shellfish based on your preferences or what's fresh (or on special).

I fell in love with this soup about eight years ago, after trying it through a meal service. Even though I grew up Italian, I'd never had it before. Fast forward to 2017. With my parents visiting on a Friday in Lent, it was the perfect recipe to try out.

The timing was good, too. What could be better than a steaming bowl of fragrant soup and a hunk of crusty bread on a blustery, snow-flurry-filled March day?

Mangia! Mangia!

Adapted from this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large shallots, diced
1 large fennel bulb, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in their juice
1 1/2 cups Chardonnay
5 cups fish stock
2 bays leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 pound mussels, scrubbed to remove sand
1 pound clams, scrubbed to remove sand
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound halibut, skin removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound salmon, skin removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Fresh parsley, chopped

*A note about choosing your fish/shellfish: Vary the fish and shellfish as you like. For example, if your kids love shrimp, add more and leave out the salmon. Grocer only sell mussels in 2-pound bags? Go for it! Prefer crab over shrimp? Make a swap!

Heat the oil in the largest pot you own over medium-high heat. Add the onion, shallots, fennel and salt and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are translucent.

Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and tomato paste and stir a few times while cooking another 2 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and juice, the wine, fish stock and bay leaves.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot and add the clams and mussels. Let them cook until some of the shells start to open, between 5 and 10 minutes. Stir the soup, then add the shrimp and fish. Cook until the shrimp are pink and the fish is firm. Gently stir the soup again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Discard any clams and mussels that did not open.

Serve soup in large bowls and sprinkle with fresh parsley and shaved Parmesan (optional). Be sure to have plenty of crusty French or Italian bread on hand to sop up the fragrant broth. A glass of Pinot Noir is perfect with this dinner, too!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Garlic Shrimp & Lemon Spiral Zucchini

We try to eat seafood once a week at my house, and while it doesn't always happen, we most often turn to shrimp because it cooks up so quickly.

I made this dinner from a recent Williams Sonoma mailer. Since I knew my boys would not even try  a lemon cream sauce, I used zucchini noodles instead of pasta. The husband and I are trying to cut back on the carbs. (My boys ate the shrimp with pasta and jarred tomato sauce.)

The end result was very tasty -- but you do need to eat this right away, as it will get a bit soggy as the zucchini sits.

Mangia! Mangia!

Garlic Shrimp & Lemon Spiral Zucchini
Inspired by Williams Sonoma

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium zucchini, spiraled, or thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler or mandolin
1 bell pepper julienned
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 shallots, minced
1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons white wine
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon, plus more to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fresh basil leaves, sliced, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss shrimp, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Refrigerate while you make the sauce and cook the zucchini.

Use a spiralizer, mandolin or a vegetable peeler to turn your zucchini into noodles. Set aside, along with sliced pepper.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add shallots and saute about 5 minutes. Add wine, lemon zest and juice, remaining butter and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and add cream. Reduce heat to low and cook until fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Keep warm.

Place shrimp on a baking sheet and cook in oven until pink, between 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook zucchini noodles and pepper strips in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove to colander and drain well. Gently squeeze excess water from zucchini.

Add zucchini and peppers to lemon cream sauce, gently toss to coat. Top with shrimp and basil. Season with more lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, March 6, 2017

White Wine Mussels

Have you ever put off making a dish that you love, because you think it will be a big pain, and then you finally do, and it was super easy? For me that dish: mussels.

We love mussels. We being hubby Jeff, daughter #2 Penny and me. In fact, Penny, 8, ordered mussels for her Groundhog Day birthday dinner last month. Come Valentine's Day I decided to finally cook mussels.

People, mussels are like the quickest, easiest thing ever. I'm no wondering how often I can get away with make them. I'm going to change it up, using other ingredients like beer, curry and coconut milk.

The moral of the story is, don't put off cooking your favorite dishes. Get in the kitchen, and make it happen!


PS: How many mussels do you need to feed your crew? From my online research, I found that three pounds — along with some crusty bread — will generally serve as the main course for four people. You can stretch that further if serving mussels as an appetizer. Two pounds was plenty for dinner for me, Jeff and Penny. 

White Wine Mussels
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lemon, zested
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cups white wine
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded (You have to pull away beard-like hairs from where the shell is closed.)
Large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add garlic and let sizzle until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add red pepper flakes, lemon zest and shallots, stirring for about 45 seconds.

Pour in the wine and season with black pepper. Bring broth to a boil, stir in mussels, and cover immediately. Shake pot and let boil for 1 minute.

Stir mussels, replace cover, and let boil for 2 more minutes. The shells will begin to open. Stir in parsley, cover pot and cook until all the shells are open, about 1 to 3 minutes. Do not overcook!

Serve with crusty bread, which is perfect for dipping in the yummy broth. BTW, don't try to eat any mussels that didn't open.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Citrus Salad with Lime Tarragon Dressing

When I was child, "orange salad" was a special dish served at Christmas time at my grandparent's house. It was simple – orange slices, black olives and some olive oil – but it seemed so exotic to me back then.

For the most part, my relationship with oranges is routine. I usually just eat them on their own, or mix mandarin oranges into a fruit salad. Oh, but oranges are capable of so much more.

When I traveled to Italy in my early 20s I discovered blood oranges. You've never smelled air as sweet as that near the groves along the rail line somewhere between Rome and Sicily.

Travel to other orange growing areas – Florida, California – and you'll meet new varieties and be introduced to new ways to use oranges.

This winter, I've been trying to broaden my orange-eating horizons. I now love using citrus in dressings, like Garlic Orange Shrimp Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette.

When I happened on a Mark Bittman recipe for Winter Citrus Salad, I had to try it.

My oldest boy loves blood oranges and my husband and youngest son enjoy grapefruit, so a side dish that combines them is a ready-made hit at my house. Bonus: this dressing is wonderful on a green salad, too.

What's your favorite way to use oranges? I'd love to know!

Mangia! Mangia!

Citrus Salad with Lime Tarragon Dressing

To make the salad:
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced into wheels
2 Cara Cara oranges, peeled and sliced into wheels
1 pink grapefruit, peeled and sliced into wheels

Combine sliced citrus in a bowl and sprinkle the salt. Set aside.

To make the dressing:
1medium shallot, minced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 small to medium lime
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar. Cover tightly with lid and shake until well combined.

Drizzle about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dressing over citrus. Refrigerate remaining dressing and use throughout the week.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Slow Cooker 15-Bean Soup with Sausage and Spinach

For dinner in the winter, I'm satisfied with a warm bowl of beans. Growing up we'd often have beans and cornbread. Not fancy beans — just thrown in the crockpot with water or broth, a diced up onion,  that "ham" flavoring packet and maybe a leftover ham bone. And it was good. This is better, healthier even thanks to the spinach. In fact, I've made these beans twice in recent weeks and am officially declaring it my official, go-to, wintertime bean recipe.

The recipe is adapted from a favorite line of cookbooks: America's Test Kitchen's Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution. I made a few tweaks. For starters, I omitted the mushrooms (just sounds unappealing to me to cook mushrooms and beans together for 9 or so hours). I increased the amount of sausage from 8 ounces to 9-12 ounces (for easier math) as sausage typically comes in 12-ounce, 4-link packs. Likewise, I upped the spinach by an ounce, because the baby spinach I buy comes in a 5-ounce clamshell container. Lastly, the second time I made it, I used a 4-ounce container of chicken broth and the 2 cups of vegetable broth leftover in my fridge. Why open another container of chicken broth?

Anyhow, if you are craving an easy dinner that takes the edge off the winter chill, try this out. Tweak it; make it your own.


PS: A great thing to serve with this: my Family Cornbread.

Slow Cooker 15-Bean Soup with Sausage and Spinach
Adapted from Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

9-12 ounces (3-4 links) hot or sweet Italian chicken sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
8 ounce bag of 15-bean soup mix, flavoring packet(s) discarded
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
Black pepper to taste
5 ounces (5 cups) baby spinach

Microwave sausage, onion, garlic, thyme and pepper flakes in bowl until onion is softened (about 5 minutes), stirring halfway through. Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in broth, water, beans, bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add black pepper — to taste — now or later, if desired. Cover and cook on low until beans are tender — 9 to 11 hours on low or 6 to 8 hours on high.

Discard bay leaves. Stir in spinach and let sit until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Indian-Spiced Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Onions

I'm making up for lost time using my one and only Indian cookbook. See last week's post on Chicken Tikka Skewers.

With those Chicken Tikka Skewers, I made the roasted Brussels sprouts also in Indian-Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking but with some tweaks. I added onions, because we love to roast onions with our Brussels sprouts, and upped the spices.


Indian-Spiced Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Onions
Adapted from Indian-Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 large sweet onion, cut into large pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil and all of the spices and salt. Add Brussels sprouts and onion chunks and toss until coated with spice mix. Place vegetables on a baking dish (lightly sprayed with vegetable oil). Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over vegetables and roast until nicely browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Molly's Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sandwiches

This dish is slow cooker gold, my friends. And I can't thank fellow mom Molly enough for sharing it with me. (Molly is also the genius behind Half-Day Chili Sauce.)

Molly's a mother of two boys like me, and we're always running our kids to some activity or another after school. Her creation is the new go-to meal at our house, especially since my son Sam declared, "This chicken is so good! Thank you for making it Mommy!"

When he asked me to pack it for his lunch, I knew we were on to something.

This recipe makes enough for a few meals (dinner and lunch!) which is especially nice.

Mangia! Mangia!

Molly's Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sandwiches

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (I used Penzy's Italian Dressing Base)
1 cup sliced, mild banana peppers
1/2 cup juice from banana pepper jar
1 cup chicken stock
Hoagie buns
Provolone cheese slices
Extra banana pepper slices for serving

Place chicken breasts in bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Top with banana peppers. Pour banana pepper juice and chicken stock over everything.

Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours. Remove chicken to a plate. Shred chicken. Return meat to slow cooker and stir to combine with sauce.

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.

Scoop chicken and banana pepper mixture into buns. Top with provolone cheese.  Put sandwiches on a cookie sheet and place in oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serve with a side of banana peppers.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chicken Tikka Skewers

You know you have too many cookbooks when you realize you've forgotten about some really good ones you haven't even tried yet. This happened to me recently when I saw my copy of Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking staring back at me as if I'd never laid eyes on it before. Sssh, don't tell my BFF and fellow bringer of hot dinner Andrea; it was a gift from here MORE THAN A YEAR AGO.

OK, so new year, new goals, and one of mine is to use all of my cookbooks more.

With my one and only Indian cookbook, I decided to start with the Chicken Tikka Skewers, because my children recently discovered they love chicken tikka masala at one of our favorite Indian restaurants in Charlotte.

I also appreciated this dish because it goes with another goal: eating lighter. No sauce, no rice required. Next week, I'll tell you all about the side dish I made: Indian-spiced Brussels Sprouts.


Chicken Tikka Skewers
Adapted from Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking

4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
3-4 garlic cloves, minced

8 (6-inch) wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes.

Whisk marinade ingredients together in bowl and add cubed chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat broiler to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with olive or vegetable oil.

Thread chicken pieces onto skewers, leaving about 1/4-inch space between piece to allow for even cooking. Place skewers on lined baking sheets. Spray chicken lightly with oil.

Broil for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Eggs in a Nest

Do any of you dear readers have children whose dietary preferences change from week to week? My youngest used to want eggs every day. Then he swore them off completely.

Now, he's eating them again.

To embrace the egg love while I can, I baked this hearty skillet. It combines many of the breakfast foods my youngest currently enjoys: hash browns, eggs, ham and cheese.

Plus, it's a one-pot meal, and I'm all over the easier clean up that follows that!

Mangia! Mangia!

Eggs in a Nest
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 1/3 package shredded hash browns (I like Alexia hash browns with onion, garlic and white pepper)
1 heaping cup diced cooked ham (or use crumbled sausage)
1 cup shredded cheese (use your favorite, such as cheddar or pepper jack)
6 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Diced green onions for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large (10-inch or 12-inch) oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat.

Pour in hash browns. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until hash browns start to brown. Flip over in sections and cook for another 2-3 minutes until desired crispiness.

Add ham to skillet, stirring gently. Cook another 5 minutes or until ham starts to brown lightly. Spread out ham and hash brown mixture evenly across entire pan.

Sprinkle with shredded cheese, let melt.

Remove pan from heat. Form six wells in the hash brown mixture. Crack an egg into each well.

Place skillet in oven and bake about 7 minutes or until egg whites are cooked and yolks are set. (Cook a little less time if you prefer your yolks more on the sunny side.)

Remove from oven.

Top with salt, pepper and green onions. Slice into wedges and serve with hot sauce on hand for those who like it.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Slow Cooker Mushroom Bolognese

America's Test Kitchen slow cooker cookbooks never let me down. I have three of them and lately have been trying to cook more from ATK's Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution. This Bolognese sauce is so savory and yummy and the texture is much like the meaty Bolognese found in ATK's original Slow Cooker Revolution.

My version below is pretty true to ATK. Why mess with a good thing? I did use more carrot — two instead of one. I used a pound of button mushrooms I had on hand, rather than all cremini as called for. I also left out the dried porcini mushrooms as they are pricey as heck.

My husband and I really liked this sauce, and that's something, because I didn't like mushrooms until well into my 20s and Jeff still doesn't really like them. The kids liked their dinner until they heard about the mushrooms. I need to keep my mouth shut sometimes.


PS: My house smelled amazing all day with this simmering away.

Slow Cooker Mushroom Bolognese
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

2 pounds cremini mushrooms (or whatever mushrooms you have on hand; I used 1 pound cremini and 1 pound button) — washed, trimmed and quartered
1 onion, chopped coarse
2 carrots, peeled and chopped coarse
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste — if desired)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (plus more to taste — if desired)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound linguine (regular or whole wheat)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Working in batches, pulse mushroom in food processor until pieces are no larger than half an inch — about 5 to 7 pulses — and transfer to a large bowl. Pulse onion and carrot until finely chopped — about 5 to 7 pulses — and transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms. Pulse tomatoes in their juice until almost smooth — 6 to 8 pulses — and set aside separately.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add processed vegetables and cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until vegetables are dry and browned, about 12 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic and oregano and cook for 1 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up browned bits from skillet, and simmer until nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetable-wine mixture to slow cooker.

Stir processed tomatoes into slow cooker. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, sugar and bay leaf. Cover and cook for 7 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high.

Discard bay leaf. Stir in parsley, cream and lemon juice. Let sauce sit on "warm."

Cook linguine according to package directions.

Plate pasta and top with Bolognese sauce. Top with grated cheese, if you like.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Garlic Orange Shrimp Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

With oranges in season, I couldn't resist buying a giant bag at my local warehouse store.

They are super-sweet and full of vitamin C, and I secretly hope that every time my kiddos eat one, they gain some extra germ-fighting powers.

To brighten and lighten-up our dinner time fare, I started searching for recipes that use fresh oranges. I hit on one from Bon Appetit for a citrus vinaigrette, which got me thinking. I had two bags of shrimp in the freezer and some nice butter lettuce. Today's dinner was taking shape.

You'll have plenty of leftover dressing, so you can enjoy it all week.

Mangia! Mangia!

Garlic Orange Shrimp with Citrus Vinaigrette
Inspired by this recipe from Bon Appetit

For the shrimp:
2 16 ounce bags of peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste
2 heads of butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
1 orange, peeled and sliced

For the dressing:
1 small shallot, minced
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 or 2 seedless oranges, (such as Navel or Cara Cara) peeled and sliced into rounds

Rinse shrimp and dry well with paper towels.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add half of the shrimp to pan and cook until pink. Remove shrimp to plate.

Add remaining oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add remaining garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add remaining shrimp and cook until pink.

Place all shrimp into pan and warm through. Sprinkle with orange zest, orange juice and salt and pepper. Stir gently.

Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Divide lettuce among 4 plates. Top with shrimp. Garnish with orange slices. Top with Citrus Vinaigrette.

To make the dressing:
Combine shallot, oil, vinegar, lemon and orange juices and zest in a medium-sized mason jar. Tighten lid and shake to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, replace lid and shake again. Dressing keeps in refrigerator for about 1 week.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Slow Cooker Vegan Indian Lentil Stew

For Sunday dinner, I often make a crockpot meal. I love walking into our house after Sunday evening Mass to the smell of a warm dinner that's ready to go. This is one of my favorite stews. It hit the spot last night and will again today when I eat some of the leftovers. Plus, few things smell better simmering away than a stew with garam masala.


Slow Cooker Vegan Indian Lentil Stew
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 shallots, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 cup dried French green lentils
6 carrots, diced
2 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (I used no salt added variety.)
2 14-ounce  cans of garbanzo beans, drained
2 cups vegetable broth (Add more for thinner stew.)
2 teaspoons garam masala
Salt and pepper to taste

In large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes and then add to slow cooker. Add all of the the other ingredients. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve with bread or crackers, if you like.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Asian Chicken & Corn Chowder

Every time I go to Costco, I snag a rotisserie chicken. They are so good, so easy, and so cheap. I find the biggest chicken I can and wedge it into my SUV-sized cart between the behemoth pack of paper towels and enough Goldfish to survive a week of toddler tantrums. And I rely on that chicken to make fast paninis after work, Curry Chicken Salad, and Fried Rice when I can't wait for take-out.

Last time I had a Costco bird in my fridge, I whipped up Asian Chicken & Corn Chowder inspired by the Penzey's Spices catalog. It's my new favorite speedy meal, and it's perfect for these chilly January nights. It's even hearty enough to count as an official dinner in the eyes of the husband. No side sandwich needed.

The ingredients may seem like a strange combo (sesame oil and ginger with creamed corn??), but trust me on this one. It's awesome. The creamed corn adds richness and a subtle sweetness that complements the Asian flavors of the soup.

Next time you grab a rotisserie chicken (or if you have leftovers of Amy's Roasted Chicken), give this soup a try. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Let's get cooking!

Asian Chicken & Corn Chowder
Adapted from Penzey's

2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 cups cooked chopped chicken
1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped OR 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups* low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
Extra sesame oil, for serving
Chili flakes, for serving

Heat sesame oil in a pan over medium-high. Add chicken and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits into the broth. Stir in creamed corn and corn kernels. Cover and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Slowly make a figure eight stirring motion in the soup with a fork. While you're stirring, very slowly pour the beaten egg into the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of chili flakes.

*If your soup is a little too thick, feel free to add a little more broth at the end.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Slow Cooker Korean Short Ribs with Noodles

When the constantly changing schedules in my household force a switch in our dinner plans, the results can be extra-delicious.

My kids ended up having a full day of activities when I had hoped to make this slow cooker recipe, so I let the meat marinate another day. That led to super-tender beef full of tangy flavor.

This recipe uses short ribs, which do well in the slow cooker. But while short ribs are nicely marbleized, they can also carry a lot of extra fat. I like to trim off as much as possible. This doesn't affect the taste and can really cut down on the grease.

To add more veggies and color, I spiralized a few carrots and tossed them into the hot water during the last 2 minutes the noodles were cooking. We'll definitely be making this again soon!

Mangia! Mangia!

Slow Cooker Korean Short Ribs with Noodles
Inspired by a recipe from Kroger

4 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed
1 cup Hoisin sauce
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
4 tablespoons sesame oil
12 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces

For serving:
Cooked rice noodles
(Optional: Add spiralized carrots to the pot during the last 2 minutes of noodle cooking.)
Chopped green onions
1 lime, sliced into wedges

In a large container with a lid, combine and mix together Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and green onions. Add short ribs and stir to coat. Seal with lid and marinate in refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours.

When ready to cook, place short ribs and marinade in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Cook on high for about 8 hours or until meat begins to fall apart.

Using a slotted spoon, remove short ribs from slow cooker to a plate. Separate meat from the bones and shred the beef.

Pile noodles onto a platter. Top with shredded beef. Add a little sauce from the slow cooker to the beef if desired. Top with chopped green onions. Serve with lime wedges.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Shrimp and Quinoa "Paella"

I thought for sure my family would hate this dish. At dinnertime, Lucy, 10, wasn't having any of it. Penny, 7, who helped me make the entire thing liked the shrimp and quinoa parts. Jeff, age not disclosed, liked it all. That's a win, right?

It was light and tasty — just what we need after holiday binging. Looking for a new way to make quinoa? Give this a go!


Shrimp and Quinoa "Paella"
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon saffron threads (or combine 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large tomatoes or smaller tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh sliced cremini mushrooms
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 ounces baby spinach
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and cooked

Combine the wine and saffron and set aside until ready to use.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until vegetables have softened and cooked down, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Increase heat to medium high and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in wine and saffron. Bring all to a boil, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add quinoa and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half — about 3 minutes.

Stir in broth, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until quinoa is tender — about 20 minutes.

Gently stir in spinach and top with shrimp. cover and cook until shrimp is heated through — about 3 to 4 minutes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Puffy Pancake

As a kid, I was always fascinated by the Dutch Baby. Whenever I saw this gigantic puffed-up breakfast pastry on a menu, it usually came with apples baked into the dough and was enough to feed an entire family.

I thought it would be fun to serve one up for breakfast for my boys — who love homemade pancakes.

This recipe is healthier than traditional pancakes and is much easier and faster to make.

I'll be baking this again soon, so that I can try adding apples into the mix.  And now that I think about it, a banana blended into the batter would be delicious, too.

The Puffy Pancake would also make a great breakfast-for-dinner entree, especially if served with some bacon or sausage on the side.

Mangia! Mangia!

Puffy Pancake

3 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh fruit or berries for serving
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine eggs, flour, milk, lemon zest, sugar, vanilla and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside to rest.

Place butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Put pan in oven to melt the butter, about 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the butter brown.

Swirl the butter in the skillet to coat bottom of pan evenly. Pour batter into skillet.

Return pan to oven and bake about 18 minutes or until pancake is puffy and golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool for about 5 minutes.

Top with fruit or berries and dust with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges and serve with maple syrup.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Chicken and Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce

Last week, I wrote about this past New Year's Eve dinner theme: French. This post is part deux.

For NYE 2016 dinner we had French Onion Soup and Chicken and Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce — the latter from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo.

I've cooked several of Khoo's dishes — Lemon and Lavender Chicken, Parisian Asparagus and Coq Au Vin on Skewers, to name a few. Each one has been accessible for us home cooks and delicious for all who enjoy simple French dishes. And the photography in this book is gorgeous. It's the prettiest cookbook I own. I'm such a fan that I've given it to several friends and family for holidays and weddings.

My uncle Frank, a recipient of LPK, says this is one of his favorites in the book. He sometimes makes the sauce to put on top of other dishes. Mais oui!

BTW, I didn't change up Khoo's recipe at all, except I forgot to slice the mushrooms (no big deal). Why mess with perfection?


PS: After writing this entire post, I got this feeling of déjà vu. Guess what? We rang in 2016 with a French theme and Little Paris Kitchen. Quelle surprise!

Sous chef Penny, 7, stirs the cream sauce.

Chicken and Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce 
(a.k.a. Poulet aux champignons avec une sauce au vin blanc)
The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock (plus extra in case thinning is necessary)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

For rest of the dish:
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound chicken (or turkey), cut into chunks
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
Handful of finely chopped tarragon or parsley

Start by making the sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the flour and beat hard until you have a smooth paste (roux). Continue to beat until the roux begins to have a golden color. Remove from the heat and gradually add in the stock, whisking constantly.

Put the pan back over medium heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes, whisking frequently to keep sauce from burning the bottom of the pan. If sauce becomes too thick, whisk in a little more stock.

Add the wine and continue simmering for 10 minutes. When time is up, remove from heat and whisk in the cream and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is simmering, melt the butter in a large frying pan until sizzling, add the chicken and fry for a few minutes until golden. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

To serve, mix the sauce with the chicken and mushrooms and sprinkle with some fresh tarragon or parsley. (I much prefer tarragon.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

No Sugar Granola Bars

I've mentioned a time or twenty that my son is a picky eater. Selective, they say in some circles. One food that he is usually willing to eat is granola bars. His absolute favorite are iced oatmeal cookie-flavored Clif Zbars, but when I get my act together (wait...that never actually happens), we love to make homemade granola bars together.

Some of our favorites are these No Bake Granola Bars. They are crazy good, but I wanted to come up with a version that had less sugar. I was having a hard time getting my new bars to stick together, so I turned to you, friends, for help! Thanks to your comments and suggestions on Facebook, we came up with a winning recipe.

Dates add sweetness, stickiness, and a hearty helping of fiber. Peanut butter contributes protein and more holding power so these bars don't crumble. Oatmeal means you'll be full all the way to lunch time. Ground flaxseed boosts the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. I did include mini chocolate chips on top, but this is an optional ingredient. There's no way my kid will touch a granola bar without chocolate chips, so it's a non-negotiable in my house. With mostly healthy ingredients, a little bit of chocolate can't hurt, right?

One thing I do know: when it comes to granola bars, crowd sourcing for the win!

Let's get cooking!

No Sugar Granola Bars

25 pitted dates
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Pulse all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor until combined. Press evenly into a foil-lined 8" square pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press them into the bars. Refrigerate 1 hour before removing the foil and slicing into bars. Store granola bars in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ramen with Chicken & Vegetables

My kids keep seeing a commercial for Ramen noodles, so I recently bought a 12-pack at the grocery store so they could try them. It was a trip down memory lane to my post-college, working-as-an-intern days when I often ate cooked and drained ramen mixed with a little butter, the seasoning packet and (canned) chicken.

My kids now bring ramen soup (in a thermos) for their school lunch about once a week. For the dinner table, I decided to see if I couldn't expand my old college recipe a little bit.

Adding lots of veggies and some Asian seasonings did the trick. Go ahead and add more or different vegetables or leave out the chicken for a vegetarian meal and/or experiment with the sauce to find a blend that fits your tastebuds.

The great thing about this recipe is that the day after we have this for dinner, there's enough leftover ramen for my lunch, too!

Mangia! Mangia!

Ramen with Chicken & Vegetables

4 packs of ramen noodles, cooked and drained (reserve seasoning packet for another use)
2 tablespoon oil, divided
1 cup carrots, julienned (Make life easy and buy a bag of shredded carrots!)
1 cup snow pea pods, julienned
1/2 a large red bell pepper, julienned
2 cans (5 ounce) or 1 can (10 ounce or 12 ounce) of chunk white chicken, packed in water OR 1 1/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 or 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (depending on your taste)
1 or 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger (depending on your taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sliced green onions for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro for serving

Cook ramen noodles according to packet directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add vegetables and cook, stirring often until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.

Remove veggies from pan and set aside in a bowl.

Add remaining oil to skillet and add chicken. Cook until heated through. Add vegetables back into pan and stir to combine.

Add soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, ginger, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for a few minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Add more soy sauce, Hoisin and ginger to taste.

Add ramen noodles to pan and stir to combine and to coat noodles in sauce. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to heat through.

Top with green onions and cilantro and serve.