Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brussel Sprout ideas

Yes - I love brussel sprouts and I'm not afraid to say it.  If you've never had them in your adult life, I strongly encourage you to try them.  There is so many ways to make them, but below are a few of my favorites.  They are in season now, so next time you are looking for a green cruciferous vegetable, give them a try. 

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Wash your brussel sprouts, cut off the bottom and remove the outer leaves.  Depending on the size, you may want to slice them in half the long way (along the mini-core).  Toss in olive oil and salt, and roast at 400 degrees for 25-40 min (depending on the size), turning them every 10 min.  Look for a golden brown color. 

Fast pan-roasted Brussel Sprouts
Not my recipe, but yummy just the same.


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Serves 4

Water to cover plus an inch more, well salted (allow 1/2 tablespoon table salt for 4 cups of water)
1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and gnarly outer leaves removed, Xs cut into the cores with the tip of a knife

1 tablespoon butter,
1 clove garlic, smashed to remove the peel, otherwise left whole
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
Salt & pepper to taste

Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop the sprouts in, cover and let cook for 3 to 5 minutes until mostly cooked. Drain. (If cooking ahead, drop the sprouts into ice water for a brief moment to stop the cooking and drain again.) Cut the sprouts in half lengthwise.

In a large skillet, heat the butter and garlic until shimmery on MEDIUM heat and let cook for about 3 minutes until the garlic flavor is infused into the butter. Remove the garlic clove and discard and increase the heat to MEDIUM HIGH. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir to coat with fat. Cook the sprouts, turning only every so often for you want the flat edges to darken, taking on almost a little 'burn' and that won't happen when stirring often. (It takes patience to not stir often but you can do it!) When the edges are browned to the desired level, sprinkle with lemon juice. Season with additional salt (if needed) and pepper (if needed). Savor and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Beef Shortribs with Red Wine Mushroom Risotto

The ultimate comfort food to me is meat that falls off the bone with the tastiest gravy and a creamy, starchy side to go along with it.  I serve it with one or two vegetables along the side, usually a combination of our favorite green veggies: broccoli, asparagus, salad, and/or brussel sprouts.  I cannot take credit for the short-rib recipe, but is the easiest recipe ever!  And don't be intimidated by the idea of making risotto at home - it is much easier than you think and cheaper than ordering it from the restaurant.  Enjoy!!!

Slow Cooker Short Ribs
I followed this recipe exactly, except that I seared the short ribs first.  I sprinkled the ribs with salt and pepper and seared each side in a hot frying pan with a little olive oil.  We found short ribs at BJ's for $3.69 a pound, versus $5.99 at the local grocery store, so you can get a great deal if you have time to shop around.  I have also refridgerated them overnight to skim off the fat, and eaten them the day of - just be sure to skim off as much fat from the top as you can.  It depends on how much of the "Gravy" you want to consume.  Either way, these are YUMMY!

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs of BeefFrom Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker CookbookServes 4

1 cup red wine [I used an Italian table wine]
2/3 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds beef short ribs
2 medium-sized yellow onions, chopped

Combine first six ingredients (through black pepper) in the slow cooker and stir. Add the ribs, submerging them in the sauce. [In my oval, this required cutting the ribs into one-bone widths, then dunking each end in the sauce. I cooked them with the bones positioned upright.] Scatter the onions over the ribs, cover, and cook on low until the meat starts to separate from the bone, 7 to 9 hours.

If you can, refrigerate the ribs and sauce separately overnight. Not only will the flavor improve, but you’ll also be able to discard a shocking amount of congealed fat. If you must serve right away, I suggest pouring the sauce into a fat separatorfirst.

Red Wine and Mushroom Risotto
Typically risotto is made with white wine, but I made this version with red wine to go better with the flavors of the short rib recipe.  Feel free to play with the recipe:  white or red wine depending on your meal, different veggies (just pre-cook them and add them in the last 5 min of cooking), different proteins.   The last risotto I made was with roasted red peppers and asparagus and I served it along with herbed pan-seared chicken cutlets.  I've even added shrimp with the last dose of stock and let them cook along with the rice to make a shrimp, sundried tomato, and asparagus risotto.  Use your imagination and do anything your little heart desires.  Enjoy!!!

2 T olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup ARBORIO rice (must be arborio - its more expensive, but totally necessary)
1/2 cup wine (I used red with the mushrooms in this recipe, but I usually use white.  Just make sure it is a dry wine, not sweet, such as a pinio grigio or a cabernet savignon)
4-5 cups of hot stock, beef or chicken depending on your protein
1-2 cups vegetables  (I used one cup of chopped assorted mushrooms sauteed with 1 T butter)
1/4 parmasean cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Over a medium heat, heat olive oil and sautee onions until translucent.  Add rice and toss until coated in oil and heated through.  Add wine and stir until wine has absorbed into the rice.  Now comes the stock - add 1 cup at a time and stir often until absorbed.  This process is what creates a creamy risotto.  And its ok to step away from the stove, just keep an eye on it so it doesn't become too dry before you add your next load of stock.  After you've added the last dose of stock, add your veggies and wait until most of the liquid as absorbed or until your desired consistency.  Take the risotto off of the heat and add the parmasean cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve!

A taste of fall

I love pumpkin anything:  pumpkin bread, muffins, coffee name it.  So I was in search of the perfect pumpkin muffin recipe that is moist yet simple to make.  Found it!!!  Some of you may have heard of The Pioneer Woman, she has an extensive website and is about to start her own show on the Food Network.  Below is the link to the recipe.  I skipped the cinnamon sugar topping and cream cheese frosting to make this a lower-sugar healthier breakfast and snack option.  I also skipped the raisins because I don't like raisins in muffins or cookies, but feel free to follow the original recipe as posted below.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!!  Owen loves his cupcakes!

Moist Pumpkin Spice Muffins


  • Muffin Ingredients:
  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup (heaping) Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Golden Raisins (optional!)
  • _____
  • Topping
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • _____
  • 1/4 cup Softened Butter
  • 4 ounces, weight Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 pound Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease 12 muffin tins.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Cut in butter with two knives or a pastry blender until it is fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, evaporated milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Add raisins. Fold gently until mixture is just combined.
Pour into a greased muffin pan—batter hardly ever fills all twelve unless you keep it down to 1/2 full. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg mixture over the top of each unbaked muffin.
Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and allow to cool. Ice with cream cheese frosting.
To make the frosting, mix all ingredients on high until soft and whipped. Spread onto completely cooled muffins, or place into a large pastry bag with a large star tip and go crazy! Store in the fridge, as icing will soften at room temperature.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Toddler meal and snack ideas

My son just turned two and, as most toddlers, can be a picky eater at times.   I also find that there are nights when I make a dinner that is not kid friendly, and I need some quick alternatives to feed him.  "ABC soup", or homemade alphabet soup, has been a great one pot dish that is healthy but exciting for a him to eat.
 I also find that most days he loves fruit for a snack, but some times its a no go.  Of course he loves desserts, so I've come to call healthy breads and muffins I make "cake" and "cupcakes".  I also freeze yogurt and call it "ice cream".  He doesn't know the difference and everyone is happy.  I hope that you and your children enjoy these ideas as much as we do. 

ABC Soup
2 cups V-8 juice
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables 
1/2 cup uncooked alphabet pasta, or other shape

In a medium sauce pan, bring the V-8 juice and chicken stock to a boil over medium/high heat.  Add the frozen veggies or fresh,  and allow them to cook for 10 minutes.  Add the pasta and cook an additional 10 min or until pasta is tender.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 min or until you are ready to eat.  This is one of Owen's favorites!!!

Homemade "Ice-cream"
Owen used to eat yogurt for breakfast everyday, then one day he wanted nothing to do with it again.  Now he won't eat it, so I needed to find another way to feed it to him.  Why not frozen and call it icecream? 

1 large container of your child's favorite yogurt (I get whole milk french vanilla)
dixie cups
plastic spoons

Spoon yogurt into dixie cups about 3/4 way full.  Stand spoon up in each cup and place cups onto a cookie sheet.   Place in the freezer for a few hours or until hardened.  Cover in pastic wrap or place in freezer safe bags to last for weeks or even months.  When your ready to eat one, just take out of freezer and peel back the paper cup.  You can even throw it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften the "ice-cream" before serving to your child.  Enjoy!

Banana "cake"
Recipe from
Check on the bread after 60 min - mine was done but the recipe says 70 min
  • 2 eggs
  • 1¾ c. sifted flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  2. Beat eggs well in a small bowl.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, add the vegetable oil. Add the sugar a little bit at a time, and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs to the mixture in the large bowl and beat well.
  6. Add some of the flour mixture to the large bowl and beat well. Then add some of the mashed bananas and beat some more. Continue adding flour, then bananas, then flour, then bananas, until everything is mixed in.
  7. Pour mixture into a greased baking pan. Bake for 70 minutes.
  8. Flip your banana bread out of the pan, let it cool for a bit, and cut it into slices to eat and share!

Healthy Carrot Muffins, or as I call them, Carrot "cupcakes"
This recipe is from the food network website, my usual go to site for all recipes.  SO delicious!!!
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 medium carrots, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained
  • Special equipment: 12 cup muffin tin and paper liners


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line twelve 1/2-cup muffin cups with paper muffin liners.
Whisk the flours with the brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl lightly whisk the egg, then whisk in the vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.
Quickly and lightly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula. Stir in the carrots and pineapple just until evenly moist; the batter will be very thick. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Turn muffins out of the tins and cool on a rack. Serve warm.

Cook's note:  I did not have any wheat germ, so I left it out.  I also freeze half the muffins for a later date to keep them fresher.  

French Onion Soup

I've always loved french onion soup, but for some reason have never really tried to make it at home.  Well today I did it for the first time and fell in love.  This recipe in no way is my own, but it is beyond easy and so yummy!  I made side notes of anything I did differently, but I highly recommend it.  Enjoy!
  • 2 lb medium onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (I used 1 tsp dried thyme)
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California  (I just used 1 dried bay leaf)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth (32 fl oz)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices of baguette
  • 1 (1/2-lb) piece Gruyère, Comte, or Emmental
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Cook onions, thyme, bay leaves, and salt in butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in broth, water, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
While soup simmers, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Arrange bread in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and toast, turning over once, until completely dry, about 15 minutes.
Remove croûtes from oven and preheat broiler. Put crocks in a shallow baking pan.
Discard bay leaves and thyme from soup and divide soup among crocks, then float a croûte in each. Slice enough Gruyère (about 6 ounces total) with cheese plane to cover tops of crocks, allowing ends of cheese to hang over rims of crocks, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.

 Read More

Cooks note:  I did not have those cheeses or bread at home when I made this soup, but I did have deli sliced swiss and some croutons.  I sprinkled the soup with croutons and placed a slice of swiss on top before broiling it and it came out great.  Just an alternative to the original recipe.

Football watch party ideas

If your house is anything like ours, most of our weekend is spent watching football.  College on Saturdays and NFL on Sundays, and we love to host watch parties at our place complete with a ton of food to snack on during the games.  Here are a few ideas from the past couple of weekends that I hope you enjoy.

Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip
Great way to use left over chicken breasts (I had some already cooked, diced, and in the freezer), plus this is a low-fat version of the dip and much healthier than the traditional buffalo chicken wing.
  • 2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded or finely chopped
  • 1/2 bottle (6 ounces) hot sauce (I used Red Hot, but you can also use less hot sauce if desired)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package of neufchatal cheese (reduced fat cream cheese), softened
  • 1 cup your favorite light bleu cheese or light ranch salad dressing (I used light Nature Fresh Bleu Cheese found in the produce section)
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded reduced fat cheddar or monterey (I used a combination of both, bu the key is reduced fat, made from 2% milk, makes the dip significantly less greasy than the traditional version) 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix chicken, celery, and cheese in a large bowl and set aside.  In a microwave safe bowl, heat the neufchatel for 30-45 sec until easily stirred with a spoon.  Add the dressing to the softened cheese and mix until combined.  Add hot sauce and combine again.  Then add sauce/dressing mixture to the chicken/cheese/celery and mix until incorporated.  Pour into a 9x9 square pan and bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbly but not brown. 
Serve warm with carrots, celery, cucumbers, tortilla chips, and crackers.  Yummy!!!

Sausage Bites
1 pkg of hillshire farms kielbasa 
your favorite mustard (we have a favorite spicy german mustard I get from a german specialty store, but any deli mustard will do)

Preheat the grill or grill pan over medium high heat.  Cut the sausage into 3 link, and then again length wise so each link is split down the middle.  Grill on both sides until slightly charred.  Cut into bite size pieces and serve with the mustard & tooth picks.

Cheese Platter
You have total freedom here to combine your favorite meats, cheeses, and accompanying topping and crackers.  One time a presented manchego, brie, and a balsamic parmasean w/prosciutto and chorizo, flat bread crackers.  Another time it was a merlot parmesean w/ proscuitto, salami, bruschetta, olives, flatbread crackers and baguette.  Just be creative and get what looks good.  You can always ask your grocer for cheese recommendations and samples.   

Vegetable Platter w/ Dip
I always want some veggies when I'm eating meats, cheeses and dips at a football party.  I usually put out a huge plate of carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, sugar snap peas, and grape tomatoes with my favorite spinach dip (I make the spinach dip recipe on the back of the Knorr Vegetable soup mix - 1 pkg vegetable soup mix, 1 box of frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry, 1 cup mayo, 1 cup sour cream.  I always use light sour cream to cut down on some calories but I can't stand the taste of light mayo).

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip
This was adapted from Alton Brown's recipe from the food network.  Again, I substitute light sour cream and use neufchatal cheese (light cream cheese) to cut down on some fat and calories.
  • 1 pkg chopped frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and water squeezed out
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces neufchatal cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
 Heat cream cheese in microwave for 30 sec to 1 min or until soft.  Add sour cream and mayo and mix until smooth.  Stir in rest of ingredients and pour into a microwave safe dish.   Microwave on high 1 min at a time until hot and serve.  I like it with tortilla or pita chips, but also great with carrot sticks.  Keep in warm throughout the game by throwing it in your crockpot on warm.

Layered Taco Dip
A family favorite that is always a huge hit.  So simple yet such great flavors.
1 pkg cream cheese, softened (can use neufchatel again to lighten it up)
1 cup sour cream (option to use light again)
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
1 jar of your favorite salsa, the thicker the better
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce (I usually buy the already shredded lettuce)
1 pkg of shredded cheddar or mexican blend cheese
1 small can of sliced black olives (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, blend cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning.  In a 9x9 or 13x9 inch baking pan, spread the cream cheese mixture evenly on the bottom.  Then spread the salsa on the top.  Then comes a layer of lettuce and cheese.  The olives go on top if you choose.  I usually serve the dip with tortilla chips but it also tastes great with celery sticks.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I know I have been MIA (missing in action), but the truth is I just haven't cooked much in the last two months.  Between morning sickness, traveling, and the beginning of a new school year on campus, I have taken full advantage of eating in the dining hall that is less than 30 yards from my front door.  It has been convenient and much less work on days I just wasn't feeling up to it.  I'm now entering my 5th month of pregnancy, feeling much better, having more energy, and really missing the kitchen.  I hope to cook much more in the coming weeks.  Stay posted for some recipe ideas in the next few days.
Happy cooking!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

fast summer menu ideas

While I don't have any new recipes for you from the past week, I have some menu ideas that are fast and perfect for the summer time.  Why not utilize your grill while you can?  In Miami we can grill out year round, but most of my family lives in upstate New York and look forward to the summer each year to start grilling again. 
We had a busy four day week after the holiday weekend so I planned accordingly and took some help from the store.  Sometimes half the battle is just deciding what to eat.  Here's what I fixed this past week, using what was on sale at my local grocery store.

Tuesday:  cheeseburgers (ground beef was on sale so I made my own patties, mixing 1 lb of 80% ground beef with  1 1/2 tablespoons of monreal steak seasoning, form patties and grill - makes 4 patties), leftover sides from 4th of July picnic (or make your favorite sides), and seedless watermelon.

Wednesday:  Grilled teriyaki chicken, (whole foods had whole split chickens already marinated in ginger teriyaki sauce for $1.99 a pound - total steal!  But go with what ever is on sale that week and get a marinade in a bottle), roasted broccoli and carrots (toss with olive oil, garlic and salt and roast for 15 to 20 min at 400 degrees), and rice pilaf (I prefer Near East brand brown rice and orzo pilaf).

Thursday:  Grilled chimichurri skirt steak (I made the same chimichurri marinade that I've previously posted and marinated the steak for 48 hours - altough it may be difficult to find a skirt steak in your grocery store, it is so worth it - melts in your mouth tender), roasted potatoes, (cut red potatoes into bite sized cubes, skin on, toss in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roast for 25-35 min at 400 degrees), mixed green salad with your favorite toppings.

Friday:  Pizza night - whole foods had oven ready cheese pizzas on sale for $5, and a package of 6 wings for $2.50.  I bought nitrate free pepperoni and a can of mushrooms to throw on the top, but you can get whatever toppings are your favorite.  I served the pizza and wings with a green salad.

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July Picnic

Its that time of year again - grilling out and picnic time!  Today it was chipotle BBQ turkey burgers and grilled turkey italian sausages, both served with sauteed peppers and onions.  I served mustard dill potato salad, baked beans, and sauteed swiss chard  (if you've never had swiss chard, its tender and sweet - I like it better than sauteed spinach).  Yummy!  Keep these recipes in mind next time you want to grill out.

Chipotle BBQ Turkey Burgers
1 lb ground turkey
2 tablespoon montreal seasoning
1 tablespoon chipotle chile pepper powder
1/3 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
Muenster cheese
4 buns

Preheat grill.  Mix together the ground turkey and spices.  Form into 4 burgers and put on the grill on medium heat.  Brush BBQ sauce on burgers as they cook, cooking about 5-7min on each side.  Flip and baste with more BBQ sauce.  Once they are done, top with cheese and cook just until melted.  Top with sauteed peppers & onions.

Mustard Dill Potato Salad
9 small to medium sized red potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 5 cups)
2 chopped hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonaise
1/2 cup finely chopped vidalia onion
4 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
salt & pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until tender, drain and cool.  Meanwhile mix dressing together, everything except hardboiled egg.  Once combined, add potatoes and egg and mix until combined.  Chill for several hours before serving.

Baked Beans
1 large can of baked beans (I used Bush's)
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix beans, mustard, ketchup, and brown sugar.  Pour into 9x9 inch baking pan and top with crumbled bacon.  Bake 30 min or until bubbling.

Sauteed Swiss Chard
1 large bunch of swiss chard, washed, stems removed, and chopped
1-2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste

Heat large pan over medium heat.  Add oil, then garlic and chard.  Sprinkle with salt and saute until tender, about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Meatballs & Sauce in the Slow-Cooker

What better way to let your meatballs and sauce simmer all day than in the slow cooker????  You can fix it and forget it.  Whether you make your own sauce, or dump a few bottles of pre-made sauce, it will taste homemade after simmering away all day.  I make my own turkey meatballs and sometimes add some grilled italian sausage, but you can make this your own by adding all your favorites.  You basically throw everything in the slow cooker (meat already cooked through) and cook on low for 8 hours.  Boil pasta of your choice and make a quick salad.  Our favorite salads include romaine lettuce with shredded parmesan, croutons, and Ken's light creamy caesar OR arugula with shredded parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt.  I've included a recipe for a quick sauce, but jarred is just fine if your in a pinch.  Enjoy!

Turkey Meatballs
1 pkg ground turkey
1 egg
1/3 c breadcrumbs
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix ingredients together by hand in a medium bowl until combined, but be careful not to over mix.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet with olive oil or cooking spray (use a cookie sheet that has sides or a 13x9 inch baking dish).   Roll into meatballs approximately the size of a golf ball and bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.  Add to your sauce and simmer away.

Quick Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on size of cloves and your garlic preference)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 - 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes with basil

Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and then the onion.  Cook the onion for about 5 min or until translucent.  (If you want mushrooms, peppers, or any other ingredients in your sauce, you need to cook them with the onion).  Add the garlic and spices and cook for about one minute, constantly stirring so the garlic doesn't burn.  Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer (about 5-10 min).  At this point you can keep on the stove top, simmer for an additional 20 minutes and serve immediately or follow the instructions below for the slow cooker.

Add sauce to slow cooker with meatballs and/or sausage.  Cook on low for 8 hours. 

Baby Spinach w/ Garlic Vinaigrette

As I've mentioned before, Tuesdays are really hectic and I need something fast and easy.  Last night we had grilled turkey italian sausage on hard rolls with sauteed peppers & onions,  greek orzo salad (left over from the weekend), and a spinach salad that had my husband asking for more.  The garlic vinaigrette was from the Jan/Feb edition of Cooking Light magazine and it was so good!  You must love garlic to like this dressing, and you'll want everyone else to eat it too.  The recipe serves 4 but my husband and I had no problem finishing the salad off ourselves.  I could have probably eaten the entire bowl myself if that was my main meal with some protein on top.  I hope you and your family enjoy!

Baby Spinach with Garlic Vinaigrette
6 cups of baby spinach leaves (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup vertically sliced red onion
For the dressing:
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon of salt
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used a garlic press)

Combine the dressing ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk.  Add the spinach and onion and toss to coat.  Makes 4 servings (1 3/4 cups each)

Nutritional Information:
Calories 66, Fat 5.1 g, Protein 1.1g, Carbs 5.2g, Fiber 1.9g, sodium 147 mg

Taken from

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chimichurri - A Miami Influenced Steak Dinner

Living in Miami has definitely influenced how and what we eat.  Not only am I more into eating local and organic than ever before (mostly due to the proximity of Whole Foods Market), but Latin influences have found their way into my kitchen.  It is even evident by how our toddler asks for beans and rice multiple times a week.   Tonight I fixed Chimichurri Marinated Steak with rice & beans and roasted asparagus.  It was a hit with the entire family and quite simple to prepare.  Hope you enjoy a taste of Miami!

Rice and BeansMake any standard package of rice and black beans (following the instructions on the package - the beans usually require to be soaked overnight).  We prefer to serve standard white rice with the black beans (liquid and all) poured over the rice.  Its how we've had it millions of times since we've been in Miami and love it!  Just season up the beans as you cook them with some garlic, salt, and a bay leaf.

Roasted Asparagus
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the asparagus and cut about 2 inches off the bottom (usually too tough to eat).   Place on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt, and bake for 10-15 min depending on how thick the stalks are. 

Chimichurri Sauce and Marinade
My recipe was adapted from a recipe I found in Food & Wine, from Michell Bernstein, a Miami native and chef/owner of Michy's on Miami Beach.    

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
4 large garlic cloves, minced (2 1/2 tablespoons)  
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/3 cup sliced scallions (optional, but I had them leftover from another recipe and they added great flavor)
1 teaspoons crushed red pepper 
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil  
Mix to combine.  Use as marinade for 24 hours, or as sauce after letting sit in fridge overnight.

To Prepare the Steak:
I used a piece of beef called the sirloin flap, which is traditionally served with the chimichurri sauce.   If you can't find this cut, you can use flank steak, sirloin, or even london broil.  Make the chimichurri the night before and place the steak (about 1.8 lbs of beef) in a gallon sized ziploc bag with the marinade in the refrigerator overnight (turn once in the morning).

About 20 min before dinner time, preheat the grill.  Grill the meat on med-high for about 5 min on each side or until done to your liking (reserve the marinade as it will be used as a sauce served with the grilled steak).  The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your steak, so you can always rely on the finger test.  Push the center of the steak with your finger or grill tool and see how much it gives.  The softer it is, the more rare the center.

While the steak is grilling, warm up the left-over marinade in the microwave or on the stove top to kill any bacteria from the raw meat and serve it as a sauce with the steak.  Traditionally, you would reserve some of the chimichurri from the night before and serve it at room temperature (ingredients still raw).  Either way, it tastes just as good.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I've been sick the last few days and haven't had the energy for anything but leftovers.  I was in desperate need of comfort food today!  And I'm always looking for new, creative ways to eat Mediterranean food at home - we just love it!!!  Tonight I made Chicken "Gyro" Pitas (my own recipe) with a Greek Orzo salad (a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I crave).  Soooo good!  If you like gyros, then you'll love this low-fat alternative that's still high in flavor.  And the orzo salad is a MUST TRY!  Use it as a side dish for dinner or your next picnic, or make it as the recipe originally intended with roasted shrimp.  Either way, it won't disappoint.  Opa!

Chicken "Gyro" Pitas
For the "Gyro" meat:
 1 lb ground chicken breast
1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Montreal grill seasoning (or you can substitute 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper)

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Combine ingredients in a bowl and form into 4 patties,  about 1/4 inch thick (mixture will be very wet, but you need this to maintain moisture in the cooking process.  I basically scooped the meat mixture out with a spoon, plopped it onto the wax paper, and spread it out.  If you're able to form the patties yourself, then just use your hands).  Place patties onto cookie sheet, cover with another sheet of wax paper, and place in the freezer for 15 min to allow the gyro patties to set up.  Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat.  Pan-fry gyro patties in 1-2 T of olive oil, cooking 3-5 minutes on each side. 

To build "gyro" pita:
romaine or leaf lettuce leaves
sliced roma or plum tomato
thin slices of feta cheese
tzatziki sauce (I recommend Cedar's brand, but you can easily make it at home with 1c Greek yogurt, 1/3 c shredded cucumber, 1/4 c fresh dill chopped, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste)
whole wheat pita bread
"Gyro" meat

Either cute the pita bread in half to make two pockets, eat it as an open face sandwich, or use two pitas and eat it as a sandwich.  Which ever you prefer, just layer the lettuce, tomato, cheese and meat then top it generously with tzatziki. 

Greek Orzo Salad
The link to the original recipe is below, but I listed my version of the side dish for you.  I have made the original recipe Roasted Shrimp and Orzo for lunch on the weekends and we love it!
3/4 pound orzo pasta
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons if using fresh juice)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups cucumbers peeled, seeded, and small diced (I used the baby cucumbers because I like them better, but the original recipe calls for one hothouse cucumber)
3/4 pound good feta cheese, medium diced

In a large bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add a splash of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt to the cooking water before adding the orzo.  Cook according the the package directions, about 9 min or until al dente.  Drain and place the hot pasta into the bowl with the dressing mixture.  Stir to combine and let it sit for about 15 min. (It must come to room temperature before adding the other ingredients - you can speed up this process by throwing the bowl into the freezer).

Once the pasta has cooled (and absorbed most of the dressing), add the rest of the ingredients and stir.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.


I love muffins - I can eat them for breakfast, for a snack, or for dessert.  And my toddler calls them "cake" because its the only kind of cake I usually have around the house.  Since they are so versatile, I wanted to find a couple recipes that were delicious but also low in sugar and healthy for you.  What can be better than that?  So here are two of my favorite muffin recipes that I make for my family.  More "cake" please!

Whole-Wheat Banana Oatmeal Muffins
These muffins are awesome, a definite family favorite.  I make them at least every other week and its a great way to use up your rotten bananas.  Sometimes I add blueberries, nuts, or chocolate chips.  I've made a few changes from the original recipe, but listed the link below.  Enjoy!

1/2 c  uncooked oatmeal
1/2 c milk
1/4 c canola oil
1 egg
1 c mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium)
1/3 c sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 and grease a muffins tin (I always use Baking Pam - its greases and flours your pans in one spray - awesome!).  In a medium bowl combine oats and milk; set aside until milk is absorbed (about 10 min).  Then add oil, egg and banana.  Set aside.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix until combined.  Scoop into muffin tin (I use an ice cream scoop) and bake for 15 min or until center comes out clean.  Makes 12 muffins.,174,155182-235201,00.html

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins
I just made these for the first time yesterday -  chock full of fresh, juicy blueberries!   Feel free to change up the fruit and yogurt combinations.  Try strawberries and strawberry yogurt, etc.   Great way to sneak more fruit into your child's diet too - my son's hands were purple after eating two of them fresh out of the oven.   Enjoy!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 - 8 ounce container of blueberry flavored non-fat Greek yogurt
1 egg
1 overripe banana, mashed (since I cut the sugar in half, I added a banana for extra sweetness and moisture)
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 T melted butter
2 c blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin tins.  Stir together flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder; set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, egg, banana, vanilla and butter.  gradually add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined.  The batter will be VERY thick so don't be alarmed.  Add the blueberries and mix again.  Scoop into muffin tin and bake for 23-25min.  Makes 12 muffins.

The original recipe can be found at:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slow-Cooker Wednesdays

Yes, Wednesdays are a crockpot day for us.  Its the craziest night of the week as my husband rushes home from work and I run out the door to teach until 8pm.  I need something ready to eat for my family and for myself when I get home.  The crockpot is the best!  I do all the preparation in the morning and by the end of the day there is only that 1 dish to clean - the slow cooker itself.  The models available today are all programmable, so you can throw your meal in there, set the time and temperature, and it will automatically go to warm when its done.  You can leave the house all day and come home to a perfectly cooked meal.  I love it!

Tonight it was Lentil Soup with Ham.  My toddler loves lentil soup and so does my husband, and if you have a baby who eats solids you can even puree the soup for a complete meal.  This soup was amazing!  So flavorful and everyone wanted more.  Feel free to add sandwiches or a salad if you feel soup isn't enough, but this is a very hearty soup full of vegetables and high in fiber.  To make it more fun for the kids, you can make them grilled cheese that they can dip into the soup.  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup with Ham
1 ham bone or ham hock (I froze the ham bone leftover from Easter and defrosted it last night for this   soup, but you can either try to find a ham bone or a ham hock in your local grocery store or just add 1 cup of chopped ham steak - no deli meant here, you need the real thing)
1 large onion, diced
4 medium carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped (optional, but adds a ton of flavor, color and vitamin C - plus they were on sale this week in my grocery store)
1 - 16 oz pkg of brown lentils  (the brand I bought did not require soaking, but read the package instructions - you  may need to soak the lentil in water overnight)
1 - 32 oz container of chicken stock
enough water to cover the vegetables and lentils

2 bay leaves
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste, but not until the end (your ham might be salty enough that you don't need any additional salt)
1 pkg of baby spinach, roughly chopped

Throw the ham, lentils, vegetables (NOT the spinach yet), chicken stock, bay leaves into the slow cooker.  Sprinkle with pepper and stir to combine.  Add enough water so that the total liquid is about 1/2 inch above the lentils and veggies (I needed about 2 cups this morning) and cover.  The lentils will absorb the liquid and it will thicken as it cooks.  Set slow-cooker on low for 8-10 hours. If you are home you can stir it once in a while, but its not necessary. About 45 min before eating, take out the ham bone or ham hock and discard.  (My ham bone had a ton of meat still on it, so I took the meat off and shredded it up and put it back into the soup - totally optional).  Taste to see if you need to add any salt, and add the chopped spinach (I chop it in the morning and throw it back in the bag - I want to avoid any unnecessary dishes later).  Put the cover back on and continue to cook on low for 45 min.   Then just serve and enjoy!

Note:  this morning was a crazy morning for me, and I didn't get the soup ready until almost 11am.  If this happens to you, then just do what I did - cook on high for 5-6 hours, then set on low until dinner time. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Simple & Light Summer Dinner

I teach a group fitness class on Tuesday evenings and need something quick and easy to make after I get home.  Grilled meat or fish with couscous and vegetable is my go-to-super-fast meal.  Tonight it was grilled salmon with mango salsa (its mango season in South Florida right now and a good friend of mine has a few mango trees - yummy!), pine nut couscous (with a little help from Near East - yes, it was out of a box and done in about 7min), and a spinach salad w/ goat cheese, walnuts and raspberries (local raspberries are in the supermarkets now too).   I made the mango salsa earlier in the day, (it can even be made the night before), and the entire meal took less than 20 min to prep and cook.  This recipe would taste good with any grilled fish, I just prefer salmon for the extra Omega 3s.  A nice cold glass of Pinot Grigio, or lemonade for a non-alcoholic option, would compliment the fruity flavors of this meal.  It was a total hit and described by our dinner guests as "gourmet".  Enjoy!

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa
4 pre-portioned salmon fillets (I get mine wild-caught and frozen, individually sealed from BJs wholesale.  I like to keep a bag in my freezer for a quick, healthy, and easy meal) or other fish such as tilapia if you prefer
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp granulated onion
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Mango Salsa (recipe below)

Defrost the fish according to package directions.  Preheat your grill on medium-high heat.  Rinse fillets in the sink with cold running water.  Place on a plate, skin side down.  Sprinkle seasonings evenly over the fish.  Place fillets, skin side down, on the grill on medium heat and close it.  Do not open or move fillets.  There is no need to turn fish or do anything.  Just let it cook for 10 minutes and it will be ready.  Remove salmon from grill and serve salsa along the side or right on top.  We don't like to eat the skin, so you can cut the skin off after its done cooking or just eat around it.  Others eat the skin, so which ever you prefer.

Mango Salsa:
1 1/2 c of ripe mango, cut into medium dice (I had 4 small mangoes, but 2 medium to large should work)
1/3 c finely diced red pepper
1/4 c sliced green onions (scallions), white and green parts
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1 T finely minced jalepeno pepper , seeds removed

Mix together in a medium bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to be their best.  Can be eaten right away if you don't have time to prepare in advance.  As I mentioned earlier, I made the salsa in the afternoon while my son was napping.

Serve the Salmon with couscous, (homemade or from a box as I have chosen tonight), and Fruity Summer Spinach Salad (recipe below).

Fruity Summer Spinach Salad
1- 6 oz pkg of baby spinach
1/2 pint fresh raspberries, washed and dried
1/3 c crumbled goat cheese
1/4 c chopped walnuts
3 T of Bolthouse Farms Raspberry Merlot Vinaigrette (I'm a HUGE fan of this brand - found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and very low in calories, fat and sugar.  They make a line of creamy yogurt dressings too - the ranch is fantastic, especially for a low calorie version that tastes similar to the real deal).
Toss the spinach, nuts, cheese, and dressing to lightly coat then sprinkle the berries on top (add more dressing if necessary) and serve.

Another variation I have tried is strawberries, Vidalia onion and feta cheese with mixed greens and the same raspberry vinaigrette. 

Since I created this menu in my head, the total nutritional value is unavailable, as I did not consult a recipe or have access to the tools that would provide such information.  I can confidently state that this is a light, refreshing, and healthy meal with very little "bad" fat.  If you are looking to cut calories even further, I would use a light or reduced fat cheese, but expect to lose the flavor and richness.  I hope you give this meal a go.

Until next time, I wish you and yours a Deliciously Domestic Dining experience. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

A visit to Mexico

Tonight I tried a new taco recipe and was pleasantly surprised at how great it was!  I adapted the recipe for Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream from the May 2011 edition of Cooking Light Magazine.  While you can find the original recipe online at, my version is below.  I served the tacos with cilantro lime rice and garlic roasted broccoli.  My toddler loved the rice and broccoli, but I knew the chicken would be a bit too spicy for him so I grilled a chicken breast for him without the spices.   I promise these are good authentic tacos made at home in as little as 20 min.  Enjoy!!!

Sarah's Chipotle Chicken Soft Tacos
Avocado Sour Cream:
1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
1/4 tsp grated lime rind
2 T lime juice
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
Mix together in a bowl and set aside in fridge to let the flavors meld. 

Mexican Slaw topping:
2 cups of angel hair slaw (cabbage only)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 finely chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
2 T lime juice
1 T olive oil
Mix together in a large bowl and set aside to let flavors combine.  (I made it ahead of time and let it sit for 30 min before I started to make the rest of dinner, but it can all be made at the same time to save time).

For the chicken:
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
3/4 tsp chipotle chili powder (much smokier and spicier than the regular chili powder)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp salt
Evenly sprinkle the spices over the chicken, or use a gallon sized zip lock bag to toss chicken strips in the spices.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Spray pan with cooking spray and saute the chicken for 4-6 min or until done, stirring frequently. 

To assemble:
Use 8 corn tortillas and heat them in dry frying pan for 10-15 sec each side (no oil).  Divide chicken evenly among tortillas, top with 1/4 cup of slaw and 1-2 T of avocado cream.  I added extra slices of avocado from the left over 1/2 of avocado.

Serving size: 2 tacos  (you could easily have 4 because they are so good)
Original recipe had 319 calories, 11.6 g of fat, 30 g protein, 25.3 g carbs, 5.1 g fiber
My recipe had only minor adjustments in salt, lime juice, less green onions used, and about 2 T more sour cream.  Please note that the nutritional value would change slightly due to the modifications to the original recipe.  The extra vaocado and side dishes also add extra calories, etc to the total nutritional content.

I served the tacos with Cilantro Lime Rice and Garlic Roasted Broccoli, both of which were cooking while I prepared all aspects of taco recipe.

Cilantro Lime Rice
2 c water
1 c long grain rice
1/3 c finely chopped cilantro
juice of one lime
1/2 t salt
Boil water in medium sauce pan.  Add salt and stir to dissolve.  Add rice then reduce heat to simmer and let cook with lid on for 20 min or until all water is absorbed.  Mix in lime juice and cilantro and stir,

Garlic Roasted Broccoli
3 c broccoli florets
1 T olive oil
1 tsp Two Sisters Seasoning Salt (mixture of dried garlic, onion, and salt)
Toss together and place on cookie sheet or 9x13 inch pyrex pan and roast at 400 degrees for 10-15 min or desired tenderness. 

Delicious Dining

Raising a family, managing the home, working, and finding time for yourself (and maybe even a date-night) is definitely a balancing act and one that effects more and more families today, as our free time is few and far between.  I understand how challenging it can be to find the time and energy to cook at home.  It seems so easy to purchase ready made food, order out, or go to a restaurant; but that can be heavy on the wallet and the waistline.  Nutrition has always been at the forefront of my mind, and cooking at home is the only way to control what goes into your food and how it is prepared.  Even if you intend to eat healthy at a restaurant, there are so many choices that sometimes sabotage your diet.  This blog is about how to cook healthy and delicious meals at home that your whole family will enjoy. 
I've been cooking and baking since grade school, started collecting recipes as I played around the kitchen, and continue to do so today.  It's something I love to do - actually cooking and eating are two of my most favorite things to do!  Most of the recipes come from magazines or websites, but some are original recipes that I've created.  I'll post the recipes as I make them, give you any alterations to make it healthier, and calorie content when available.  Of course I'll also provide feedback from my family, including my 21 month old son - and we all know how picky toddlers can be!!!
I hope that you can use this blog as a tool to try some new recipes for your family or just for yourself, and you find that cooking at home can be quite a Deliciously Domestic Dining experience.