Monday, January 31, 2011

Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash


  • 2  teaspoons  paprika
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground ginger
  • 1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  (1-pound) beef shoulder roast or petite tender roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Non-stick spray
  • 4  shallots, quartered
  • 4  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3  cups  (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup  chopped zucchini, big chunks


1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add beef; toss well to coat.
2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef and shallots; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Add squash and zucchini; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until squash is tender.

I paired this with orzo.  After cooking orzo, scoop 1/2 cup orzo on dinner plate and mound the Beef Tagine on top, then sprinkle with shaved or shredded coconut.  The recipe would go really well with Jasmine or Basmati rice too. YUM!

Slightly adapted recipe from Cooking Light magazine.  Serves 4.

Chicken Carne Asada Tacos


* 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about 1 orange)
* 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
* 1 medium red onion, thinly vertically sliced
* 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into thin strips
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* Cooking spray
* 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
* 1 cup diced peeled avocado (about 1 avocado)
* 1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend
* Lime wedges


1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Place onion in a small saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; drain and plunge onion in ice water. Drain onion; add to juice mixture. Chill until ready to serve.

2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sprinkle chicken with oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned and done, stirring occasionally.

3. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide chicken evenly among tortillas. Drain onion; divide evenly among tortillas. Top each tortilla with 2 tablespoons avocado and 1 tablespoon cheese; fold over. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.

I was a bit apprehensive to eat these without sour cream, but it really wasn't needed. The onions had tons of flavor and squirting lime juice on top of it all made them delectable! In hindsight, I would have served this dish with some Mexican rice, just to add a bit more food for my hungry husband...and my hungry pregnant self!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jessi's Famous Chocolate Kahlua Cake

  • 1pkg Duncan Hines Devils Food cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil)
  • 2 cups sour cream (I don't go light on this one)
  • 1/2 c Kahlua
  • 1pkg milk chocolate chips
  • Hot fudge to drizzle on top - maybe 1/2 c
  • Powdered sugar for sprinkling on top
  • Baker's Joy cooking spray (to grease bundt pan)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients (except hot fudge and powdered sugar) and pour evenly into greased bundt pan. ***I use and highly recommend Baker's Joy cooking spray (the one that has flour added in) and think it works the best by far for keeping this cake from sticking!***
  3. Bake for 45 minutes.  Let rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Place serving plate upside down on bundt pan and flip to serve.
  5. Drizzle with hot fudge and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  6. Serve with vanilla ice cream
Although I got this recipe from the school where I work (not sure who to give credit to as it was years ago), in my circle of family and friends this has become "Jessi's Famous Chocolate Cake"  So, I'm pretty much sharing one of my best cooking secrets with all of you and dispelling the rumors that I am an amazing cook because this recipe could not be easier!  Aside from being the cake that Emma requests every year for her birthday, I have also made it for many special occasions and celebrations.  This cake is so moist, it's ridiculous.  Even days later, the leftovers (if there are ever any) are still sooo moist and delicious.  If you like chocolate (the Kahlua flavor doesn't really come out at all), you will LOVE this cake.  I swear on my Nana's cookbook.

Lime Rita

  • 12 oz. limeade concentrate (doesn't need to be thawed)
  • 12 oz. squirt
  • 12 oz. tequila
  • 12 oz. light beer
  1. Mix all ingredients in a pitcher and serve over ice with a lime.
  2. To fancy it you can salt the rims or use margarita stemware.

There are lots of names that people have for this kind of drink, but I made this name up to make it sound suitable to offer guests at a fiesta-themed party.  If you like margaritas, you're sure to like this drink - and I promise you, you won't taste the beer.  I decided on this recipe after trying it this summer at one of our pool parties.  My problem for this Mexican fiesta was that I wanted the margarita 'flavor' without having to stand at a blender all night - or have the noise of the blender interrupt the event.  Worked great - it was a big hit and could not be easier!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pasta Russo (remix)

I was inspired to make a pasta dish tonight, because of a recipe I found in my Still Gold'n cookbook.  However, I REALLY adapted the recipe to my liking, instead of making it according to the cookbook.
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1/4 cup mini sweet bell peppers (red, orange & yellow), chopped
1 cup Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
I pound gourmet chicken with red bell pepper & spinach sausages, sliced
(This can be made with shrimp, chicken or pork, choose your personal fave)
1/2 cup chicken stock (or more if you desire a soupier sauce)
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
14-16 oz. whole grain farfalle or penne pasta
dash salt
1 cup broccoli
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon fresh basil, choppedflorets, frozen (I buy this at Costco - it's awesome)
freshly shaved Parmesan cheese

Saute garlic, mini bell peppers and mushrooms in olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet or wok until garlic is golden brown.  Add the chicken sausage, chicken stock and lemon juice to the skillet.  Simmer on low for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water (with a dash of salt & olive oil) for 10 minutes.  Steam the broccoli in the microwave for 5 minutes.  When pasta is done, drain and place pasta and broccoli in a large bowl and pour the sausage mixture over the pasta.  Toss to combine, adding ground pepper and chopped basil.  Serve topped with shaved Parmesan cheese.  Yield: 6 servings.

Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups croutons (I use seasoned ones)
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground turkey breast
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c ketchup
  • 1 T  honey
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 T brown mustard
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/3-inch loaf pan with olive oil.
  2. Toss bread with broth in large bowl. Let stand until bread absorbs broth and softens, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Mix in mushrooms, eggs, shallots, parsley, thyme, coarse salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons oil.
  4. Add turkey; mix just until blended. Transfer to pan, mounding in center. 
  5. Mix together balsamic vinegar, ketchup, honey, brown sugar, and brown mustard. Pour this glaze over the top.
  6. Bake uncovered until thermometer inserted into center registers 170°F, about 1 hour 40 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.
Although this dinner isn't very "pretty", it suuuure is tasty.  Roger and Emma who aren't big meatloaf fans, always enjoy this dish. I think the glaze is what makes it!  I usually make lots (shocker) and then freeze it.  Love it with mashed potatoes and green beans.  This recipe is adapted from one I found on and I got the glaze recipe from a reader's review.  This recipe has been a favorite for a couple of years.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

  • 1 yellow onion, grated   A food processor makes this a whole lot easier!
  • 4 ribs celery, grated
  • 3/4 lb carrots, grated
  • 1 1/2 T minced garlic
  • 2 T dry basil
  • 1/2 T red pepper flakes (Omit or reduce if you don't like spicy food)
  • 32 ounces of beef stock
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 8 oz cream cheese, cut into small chunks (I use low-fat)
  • 4 T basil pesto
  • 4 T brown sugar
  1. Saute onions, celery, carrots, & garlic in vegetable oil until onions are translucent
  2. Add dry basil and red peper flakes, cook for 2 minutes
  3. Add beef stock & pasta sauce, bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer
  4. Add cream cheese and simmer until cheese is dissolved, stirring frequently
  5. Stir in basil pesto, remove from heat
  6. Add brown sugar, stir, then serve

This recipe is one of my all-time favorite soups.  It's got lots of veggies, lots of flavor, and even a little kick.  Always a huge hit when I've made it for friends and family.  My recipe is only slightly modified from one I originally got from Kristen Labrie who made it for a staff party.  Everyone went crazy for it so she sent out the recipe to the whole staff.  Two easy modifications you could make would be to reduce or omit the spice (with the spice above I'd say it's about a 1 1/2 - 2 star) - another would be to omit the cream cheese for a lower fat version.  I've tried it all different ways and love them all, but the one above is my most favorite.  With a food processor, this recipe is very quick and easy.  I usually double this recipe which fills up my 8qt. stockpot.  For dinner club, I quadruple which makes even extra which I freeze.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Black and White Cookie Bars

2.5 cups white or wheat (baking) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter OR 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup butter substitute
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs OR 1/2 cup egg substitute
1 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda with a whisk.  In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter, sugars, and vanilla until smooth.  Add one egg at a time to large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Mix in flour from medium bowl gradually until all ingredients are thoroughly blended together.  Using a large spoon or spatula, stir in chocolate chips and chopped nuts.

Coat rectangular, glass 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray.  Spread cookie mixture evenly in glass pan, using a spatula.  Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on desired doneness, or gooeyness.

Cool pan on wire rack for 30 minutes or more.  Cut into 2 inch squares.  Makes 24 cookie bars.

Taco Bar

Obviously, taco bar is not a complicated or sophisticated recipe, but it is a crowd pleaser and a must-have for my family! There are many optional ingredients when making tacos, below you will find how I prepared taco bar for a recent dinner club meal.


1 pound ground turkey
1/3 cup taco seasoning (I buy in bulk at Costco)
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup diced white onion
1 cup water
1 heart of romaine lettuce, chopped
4 small vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 cup of shredded colby/jack cheese
½ cup salsa
1 ripe avocado
4 oz. sliced black olives
6 oz. organic red corn tortilla chips
8 La Tortilla Factory high-fiber, whole wheat, large tortillas (unbelievably good and good for you - thanks to Janae for suggesting these :)
½ cup low-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Brown ground turkey in a saucepan. While turkey is cooking, saute bell pepper and onion in a small saucepan.  When ground turkey is browned, add the taco seasoning, water, bell peppers, and onions to the saucepan.  Simmer meat mixture for 10-15 minutes.  Drain excess liquid from meat mixture.

Hand chop or use food processor to prepare romaine lettuce and tomatoes.  Set out black olives, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese in a condiment dish, add chopped lettuce and tomatoes.

Helpful Tip:  Prepare avocado by slicing it down the center lengthwise, remove pit in center.  Spread the avocado and cut through the "meat" of it lengthwise and crosswise.  Scoop out chopped avocado with a large spoon.  Place avocado pieces in condiment dish with the rest of the taco bar fixings.
Option: after you prepare your avocado, you could mix it with your desired amount of salsa to make guacamole.  Sometimes I prefer the simplicity of fresh avocado, as tonight's recipe suggests.

Place 1-3 tortillas on a plate, with a dampened paper towel on top, in the microwave.  Heat tortillas for 15 seconds a piece.

Assemble your taco with desired condiments and enjoy with a side of red corn tortilla chips and salsa!

Butternut Squash & White Bean Soup


* 1 tablespoon olive oil

* 1 onion, chopped

* 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

* 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed

* 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)

* 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

* kosher salt and black pepper

* 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan (1 ounce)

* 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed

* 1 bunch spinach, thick stems removed (4 cups)


1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, 5 to 6 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

3. Stir in the chicken, squash, thyme, 5 cups water, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

5. After the soup has simmered, stir in the beans and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted and the beans are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

**To make this recipe even faster, use frozen chopped onions and diced butternut squash, which can be found in the walk-in refrigerated section of Costco!**

Recipe adapted from Real Simple

Monday, January 17, 2011

Spaghetti Pie


  • 2 packages of linguine noodles (2 lbs.) - I use whole wheat
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. neufchatel cheese, softened (this is the low fat cream cheese)
  • 2 c non-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 small bunch of green onions, sliced thin (just the green)
  • 7-8 cups spaghetti sauce prepared just the way you like it
  • 4 cups grated cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook linguine noodles and drain.
  3. Beat 3 eggs and add to linguine noodles along with fresh Parmesan cheese.  Stir to mix.
  4. Divide the pasta and layer in the bottom of two 9x13 casserole dishes.

5. Next, combine softened cream cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, and water, and stir until smooth.  Divide and spread over both pans of noodles. *For a lighter version, you don't have to use all of this - just spread enough to cover noodles.  (By the way, the bowl Emma is stirring is for a quadrupled recipe... so yours won't look like this much.  As my hubby says... I'm feedin' the world ;)

6. Then spread 3-4 cups of prepared spaghetti sauce over each pan.

7. Top with grated cheddar cheese and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

This recipe serves about 14-16 people, although usually when not cooking for dinner club, we put one pan in the freezer for later.  The leftovers are delicious and it freezes really well.

This is a modified version of a recipe I got from Kathi Best back in 2004.  It's hearty, filling, and delicious... always a favorite anytime I make it - a usual request from my hubby. I also love it because it's very kid-friendly as well - one of Emma's favs.

Tim's Famous Spaghetti Sauce

Now, I realize everyone and their brother has a recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce.  So, yeah for all of us!  But I grew up with divorced parents, which means, when my parents were cooking, it was after a long day at work and there ain't no time for peeling and roasting tomatoes when you have two small kids telling you how "staaaaarving" they are.

My dad, Tim, always did some unique sprucing up of his spaghetti sauce.  Why am I sharing this?  Not because it's miraculous by any means, but because I have continued to use his "recipe" throughout my entire cooking life and I think it's a good balance between homemade and tolerable on a weeknight.

My dad would start with meat (usually ground beef), add onions and garlic, and then the canned spaghetti sauce from the store.  Then, after it got hot, he added in sliced mushrooms and chopped zucchini.   For himself (not us kids), he often added Tabasco sauce for a little added heat.

I pretty much do the same kind of thing now although usually using ground turkey, sometimes adding in additional veggies like bell peppers or broccoli.  I usually add some Italian seasoning to my meat too (along with the garlic and pre-chopped onions).  Another favorite trick is to add lots of fresh chopped basil or even easier, dump in some pesto (Costco has the best price on pesto by FAR).  I also like to add a little hot pepper flakes or Tabasco but watch this if I'm serving to kids. I NEVER skip the fresh sliced mushrooms and zucchinni - sooooo good!

So feel free to get creative with your spaghetti sauce without feeling like you have to make the whole thing from scratch.  And you just HAVE to try adding the fresh sliced mushrooms and chopped zucchini. :)

30 Second Balsamic Dressing

I got this recipe years ago (1999), from a dinner out on Long Lake.  I absolutely freaked out over the balsamic salad dressing - come to find out the recipe could NOT be easier. We've been making it ever since and it is Emma's all time favorite dressing.

  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T water
  • 1/2 c  olive oil
  • 1 packet of Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix
***I make a lower fat version substituting 1/4 c of the olive oil for additional water.

  • Shake until well blended

You can refrigerate this dressing for up to a month.  The ingredients will separate when refrigerated.  To reuse, let dressing stand at room temperature about 1 hour and then shake just before serving.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Leftovers? Make Paninis!

Sometimes we don't have big enough appetites or enough meals in a day to eat up all of the delicious food from dinner club.  Bummer?  No way!  We like to invite over friends to help us enjoy the extras and MAKE PANINIS!
We had several chicken breasts prepared two different ways: Hawaiian chicken and Roast chicken with fennel seed and sauteed bell peppers/onions.  In the refrigerator we found a variety of sliced and crumbled cheeses, teriyaki sauce, pineapple slices, tomatoes, and Italian dressing.  We'd purchased freshly sliced sour dough bread and were ready to roll out the panini grill.  A couple of us enjoyed a Hawaiian style panini with chicken breast, grilled pineapple (right on the panini press:), teriyaki sauce, colby/jack cheese and sliced tomato.  I made my sandwich with roast fennel chicken breast, mozzarella cheese, peppers, onions and sliced tomatoes.  This is an easy and tasty way to enjoy leftovers!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Pepers


* 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

* 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed (I couldn't find crushed seeds, so I just used the whole ones)

* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

* 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

* 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

* 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

* 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

* Cooking spray

* 2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper

* 1 cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper

* 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large)

* 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (I used dried)

* 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Brush chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; sprinkle spice rub over chicken. (I just brushed the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled all of the spices on both sides. I didn't measure them out.)

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute. Arrange chicken in an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 40 minutes or until done.

3. Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, shallots, and rosemary; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve bell pepper mixture over chicken.

I served this dish with rosemary baby red mashed potatoes. I don't really have a recipe. I just added in milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, light sour cream, shredded Parmesan cheese, and rosemary to taste. :)

Recipe from Cooking Light

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hawaiian Chicken, Rice & Salsa

Pineapple/Mango Salsa:  My own recipe

1 fresh mango, diced
1 fresh pineapple, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 white onion, minced
1 yellow bell pepper, minced
1/8 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients and chill until ready to serve with chicken and rice.


The Hawaiian Chicken recipe was adapted from Cooking Light magazine.  The recipe below is tripled from the original recipe and I added a few ingredients to make it tastier.  12 servings as is.

3/4 cup pineapple/orange juice
6 tablespoons ketchup
6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
4.5 teaspoons minced, peeled ginger
3 tablespoons minced garlic
12 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved
cooking spray
2.25 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper


6 cups Jasmine rice
7 cups liquid (4 cups of water and 3 cups pineapple/orange juice)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine first 5 ingredients for chicken recipe.  Reserve 3/4 cup marinade and refrigerate; place remaining marinade in a gallon-size Ziploc bag.  Add chicken breasts to bag and seal.  Chill 4 hours or overnight.

Prepare rice when 45 minutes before dinner remains.  Combine 6 cups Jasmine rice with water and pineapple/orange juice (7 cups total liquid) in rice cooker.

Heat grill to medium-high heat.  Coat grill with cooking spray.  Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade in bag.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Add chicken to grill; baste with reserved marinade.  Cook 6 minutes.  Turn chicken over; baste with reserved marinade.  Cook another 6 minutes. Note: I made this on my indoor panini grill and it only took 6 minutes for the halved chicken breasts!

When rice is finished in cooker, combine with 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir in cilantro. 
Here is a very handy tip: if you aren't going to use all of your cilantro (or other herbs) at one time, place cilantro, stems side down, in a small vase of cold water.  This method can help your herbs last up to one week and it looks pretty on the kitchen counter too!

No More Crying Over Onions

Here are two of my favorite tips for doing one of my LEAST favorite things in the kitchen... chopping onions. Blech... my eyes are watering at just the mention of it.

My first tip is something I heard from my friend Carla, tried myself (admittedly skeptical) and quickly appreciated and loved... cutting onions with swim goggles on.

As crazy as this sounds, it actually works. Not like makes you cry less, but no crying at all!  You look like a complete dork, but practicality wins out over fashion here.  This is not a glamor blog, it's a cooking blog, so have at it!

My second tip is something that I came about by total chance.  NO ONE had better confess that they knew about these before now because we might not be friends if you knew of such miracles and didn't share with me.

Ready for this tip that will change the way you look at spaghetti sauce (and many other recipes with chopped onions) forever?  Wait for it...

Hint... you'll find it here:

Please let me introduce you to Mrs. Fabulous herself (obviously these are female)....


Well hellooooooo, lovah! Do you die?  I DIE!  If onions could feel gratitude, I would kiss them all with big loving, slobbery smooches to show my appreciation.

They save so much time and hassle, it's ri.dic.u.lous.  I keep them stocked up in my freezer and cook with them all the time.  You add them frozen to recipes, so no thawing time needed.

It's okay to fall in love at first sight... I did too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thai Chili


  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces*
  • 3T red curry paste (2T reserved)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (found next to the chicken stock)
  • 1/2 cup bulgar wheat (found in the bulk isle)
  • 2 cups sweet potato/yam, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium raw green bell pepper, chopped (1 c)
  • 3 cups dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups pureed tomatoes
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced (1 reserved for garnish)



1. Cook chicken with 1T of curry until fully cooked (use small amount of olive oil to keep from sticking if needed)
2. In a 4 qt. stock pot, combine curry paste, cumin and bit of broth.  Whisk until the curry paste is smooth and no longer in clumps.
3. Add remaining broth, bulgur, sweet potato/yam and bell pepper and bring to boil.
4. Turn down to medium low, cover tightly and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Then, add beans, coconut milk, tomato puree, and chicken. Stir
6. Cook uncovered for 7 minutes until bulgar is tender and chili is thick
7. Stir in 2 sliced green onions and black pepper and serve garnished with reserved green onion.

*For a vegan version of this recipe, omit chicken.

This recipe was adapted from the Clean Eating magazine - I added chicken and additional curry paste amongst a few other slight modifications.  Even with the added curry, I would still say it's very low on the spicy scale (only 1-2 stars).  It's very healthy (could go low-sodium vegetable broth and low fat coconut milk for added health benefits) and the flavors are delicious.  I was surprised at how easy it was to make... and fast!  I had never cooked with bulgar before and really like the texture.  Hubby gave it two thumbs up, although we are all Thai food lovers and enjoy the curry flavor.  Definitely a repeat recipe for us!  This recipe makes about 10 cups of finished soup, so I doubled for dinner club.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dinner Club...How does it work?

Jessi, Natalie, and Tiffany swimming off the Kona beaches at the Ironman World Championships in 2009

We wanted to be sure to include a post about how our dinner club works.  Not because you're interested in getting one started (you might just be visiting for meal inspiration and delicious recipes - who could blame you?!?!), but we often get these questions and thought we'd answer them for prosperity.  Well, that and we think Dinner Club has become a necessity for all of us.  If you have any inkling to try it out, we definitely want to encourage you!


How does it work?

Each week all three ladies make a meal for our own family, plus the other two families.  We are responsible for the delivery of our own meal on the day we promise it to each other.

What do you do for people with different food preferences?

It's honestly probably best not to join into this kind of "marriage" with people who have really different food needs than your own, but often it's pretty easy to make accommodations.  For example, Natalie and her husband don't eat pork, and her husband doesn't eat beef.  We are all pretty happy to substitute for chicken or turkey because these aren't the only meals we eat all week and they are generally healthier substitutions anyway.  Tiffany and Jessi can't do Feta or blue cheese while pregnant, so Natalie substitutes parmesean or another hard cheese.

How do you manage the food storage containers that you deliver the food in?

In retrospect, we could have done this several ways, the easiest being each of us buy a set of dishes that had some visual difference.  It would be easier to return them to the correct person.  The reality for us is that it has never been a big deal and we have pretty much lost track at this point.  For some people this might be a bigger issue, thankfully not for us.  We have each stocked up on a few items to make it a little easier, but generally the dishes all circulate around and it's never really been an issue.  Also we use a lot of the Ziploc/Glad containers that no one is too invested in.

What do you include in the meals?

We generally include generous portions of a main dish and sometimes side dish (always big fans of having some leftovers for lunch).  We decided in the beginning generally not to include a vegetable/salad side dish (unless it is part of the main dish) because of the hassle factor and also because of the timing of when families eat the meal.  You may deliver it on Monday but if someone doesn't eat it until Wednesday, a salad may be wilted by then.  Occasionally, we include some kind of dessert or breakfast treat (like muffins or bread), but it's rare and definitely not expected.

Do you set-up a schedule or deliver on the same day every week?

Because of our busy lives and sometimes irregular schedules and commitments, we generally make the schedule week to week.  We try to let the others know at the beginning of the week what day we plan to deliver and what we're planning on making.  This way, we don't all deliver on the same day and it's not Mexican food all week long.  Doing a schedule would definitely be an option, but this allows us flexibility for family commitments, hair appointments, and all other important things in life.

Doesn't it suck making a huge meal every week? 

The obvious answer is yes, but having other meals delivered during the week makes up for it ten fold!  If you think about it, the time investment to make more of a recipe you're already making is much less than making 3 separate meals.  It's also a money saver - there's a lot less wasted food each week.  And we would all agree that we eat out less with homemade meals showing up on our doorstep.

If you have *any* other questions about what we've done or learned, we'd love to answer them in the comments section... so be sure to ask away!  Our answers aren't any silver bullets, but we are happy to share what's worked for us!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 frozen chicken breasts
2 cans black beans with liquid
2 cans Mexican stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup sliced green chilies
shredded Mexican cheese blend
tortilla chips

1. Place all ingredients in crock pot.
2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
3. Just before serving, remove chicken breasts and shred them with a fork. They will literally fall apart. Place back in soup.
4. Sprinkle with cheese and serve with tortilla chips.

Doesn't get much easier than this! I also LOVE that I don't even have to defrost meat to make this meal!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sweet and Sour Chicken

 Adapted from Cooking Light magazine
Serves 4 
  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1  tablespoon  bottled minced garlic
  • 1  teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2  pounds  skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/2  cup  chopped red bell pepper
  • 1  (15 1/4-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
  • 1/3  cup  reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  tablespoons  rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  cornstarch
  • 2  teaspoons  brown sugar
  • 1/4  cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup maraschino cherries, halved
  • cashew nuts, crushed
  • 4 cups of prepared Jasmine rice


Steam 2 cups Jasmine rice and 2 + 1/2 cup water in rice cooker while you are preparing the chicken.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, red pepper, and chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until chicken is browned. Remove chicken mixture from pan; set aside.

Add onion and bell pepper to pan, and sauté 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Add 1 cup pineapple chunks to pan; cook 30 seconds. Reserve remaining pineapple for another use. Combine the reserved 1/2 cup juice, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, and sugar in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Return chicken mixture to pan. Stir in juice mixture; bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened and chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice.  Top sweet and sour chicken with cherries, cashews and coconut!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cranberry Chutney Chicken Sandwiches

  • Chicken meat pulled off of one rotisserie chicken
  • Cranberry chutney - 1 jar
  • 8 Slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 fresh hoagie or 12 bolillo rolls
  • 2 Fuji apples - thinly sliced
  • Baby romaine lettuce

    1. Slice open rolls in half lengthwise.  On one side smother the cranberry chutney topped with the chicken.  On the other side place thin apple slices and top with cheddar cheese.
    2. Place under the broiler until the cheese bubbles.
    3. Add romaine lettuce just before serving.
    This recipe has become a family favorite.  It was adapted from a sandwich I ate at Phaedra Cote's house which had mango chutney and fresh mozzarella (also delicious and adds great variety).  It's super quick and easy, and well received!  I HIGHLY recommend the chutney - it's really what makes the sandwich, but in a pinch you can also use canned/fresh cranberry sauce.  Enjoy!

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    Banana-Blueberry Bread

    1 c sugar
    1/2 c oil
    1 c (2 medium) mashed ripe bananas
    1/2 c low-fat plain yogurt
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 eggs
    2 c all purpose-flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 c fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)


    1. Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour bottom only of 9x5 loaf pan.
    2. In a large bowl, combine sugar and oil; beat well.
    3. Add bananas, yogurt, vanilla, and eggs; blend well.
    4. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in blueberries. Pour into greased and floured pan.
    5. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (I usually bake it for 50 minutes, then move the rack a notch up from the center of the oven and bake it for 10-15 more minutes. The yogurt keeps the middle pretty doughy if you're not careful).
    6. Cool 5 minutes and remove from pan. Cool 30 minutes or until completely cooled. Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator.

    This is one of my favorite breads! It's delicious!

    Recipe from Pillsbury Best Muffins & Quick Breads

    Baked Ziti with Pesto


    1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
    1/2 pound ziti (I use the wheat noodles)
    2 Tbsp cooking oil
    1 onion, chopped (I use the frozen, pre-chopped onions - best find EVER by Jessi!)
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 bay leaf
    1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
    1 cup ricotta cheese
    1 1/2 cups grated, packaged mozzarella cheese
    1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I usually just get a package of shredded Italian cheese and combine it with some shredded Parmesan)
    1/4 cup pesto

    1. Heat oven to 350. Oil an 8x8 baking dish.
    2. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta for about 7 minutes, or until partially cooked. Drain and rinse with cold water.
    3. Cook ground beef/turkey. Add in onions and garlic until cooked through.
    4. Add tomatoes, salt, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook until very thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Remove bay leaf.
    5. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, about half the Parmesan, the pesto, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
    6. Put half of the cooked pasta into the parpared baking dish and top with about a third of the tomato sauce. Spread the cheese/pesto mixture on the sauce in an even layer. Cover with the remaining pasta and then the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting.

    Recipe adapted from Food & Wine Magazine's Quick from Scratch Pasta Cookbook

    Veggie Squares


    2 canisters Pillsbury crescent rolls
    1 8oz package cream cheese (you can choose low fat, or non-fat)
    1 8oz container sour cream (again, you choose the fat content)
    1 package dry Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch dressing mix
    Assorted veggies of your choice (Pictured, I had a red and green pepper, carrots, and broccoli. I've also used cauliflower.)
    2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

    1. Pre heat oven according to crescent roll directions. Open the 2 canisters of dough and roll them out flat so that the entire cookie sheet is covered. Bake until golden.

    2. Mix together cream cheese, sour cream, and dry ranch dressing mix. This works best if you melt the cream cheese a bit in the microwave.
    3. Finely chop veggies. I did this by hand for the peppers, just because they are so juicy. However, if you have a food processor, it's definitely the way to go for the rest of the veggies. Since I don't have a food processor, I simply put them in my blender, choose the "chop" setting and pulse it until they're all cut up. Very easy.

    4. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly onto the flat crescent rolls.
    5. Sprinkle veggies on top of mixture and top with shredded cheddar cheese.
    6. Use a pizza cutter to cut into squares. Refrigerate until serving.

    These are always a major hit at parties. My husband's family requests that I bring them every time we get together. I usually choose the low or non fat cream cheese and sour cream, and they still taste great! The best part is, they're very simple to make!