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.