March 4, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash, Carrot, and Ginger Soup

Sorry for the leave of absence!  I might have over committed myself a little last year.  Might meaning definitely!  Armed with a new camera and not one lesson, I am going to give picture taking a shot!  Bare with me. 

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this soup.  Hearty, flavorful, healthy- a winning combo for me.  I made it three times the first week I tried it!  If you are more of a "fewer steps" kind of cook, you could skip the roasting process, though I do believe that the caramelized vegetables add an element of flavor that you don't want to miss!  I hit it heavy with ginger and nutmeg for little extra heat and was glad that I did!  Enjoy!   
Roasted Butternut Squash, Carrot, and Ginger Soup
Serves 4-6
Recipe adapted from


1 medium butternut squash (I usually buy the pre-cut containers and use about half)
1 lb carrots, peeled
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
Garnish- spicy pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To prepare baking sheet, cover with foil and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil; set aside.

Peel and cut the butternut squash and carrots into a 1 inch dice and place on prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.  Roast the vegetables at 375 for 35-45 minutes.

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and cook for one minute. Add squash, carrots, chicken broth, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high, bringing to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender, food processor or blender and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

November 16, 2011

Turkey and Vegetable Meatloaf Muffins with Balsamic Glaze

It has been a long time since I have made meatloaf; in fact I am not sure if I can even recall making it in my adult life.  I am not sure how many of you are on Pintrest, but it has become my latest obsession.  Recently, there has been a consistent homage to the muffin pan and it is being utilized for foods that have nothing to do with the traditional muffin.  I love the idea because it creates individual portions that are perfect in size, but the best part is that each portion has the lightly crisped crust that is my favorite part of any baked dish.  Everybody gets the good piece!  Be on the lookout- more muffin recipes to come! 

Turkey and Vegetable Meatloaf Muffins with Balsamic Glaze
Adapted from Bobby Flay
Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small zucchini, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
¼ lb. cremini mushrooms, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (90 percent lean)
1 cup panko (coarse Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, bell pepper, mushroom, onion, garlic paste and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are almost soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Whisk the egg and fresh herbs in a large bowl. Add the turkey, panko, grated cheese, 1/2 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and the cooled vegetables; mix until just combined.
Fill a muffin pan with 12 individual portions of the mixture. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup balsamic and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes in a small bowl; brush the mixture over the entire loaf. Bake for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  Let it rest for 5-10 minutes prior to serving.

November 3, 2011

Crockpot Kale and Butternut Squash Stew

For those of you that know me, you know I do not often make the same thing twice.  Of course I have my favorites, but usually when given the option of old or new, I side with new.  That is half of the reason I started this blog; so that I could have a way to organize and revisit the new recipes that I have tried that I should make again.  I sometimes think that maybe it is a result of growing up in a house that had a weekly/monthly meal rotation and always knowing what to expect at dinner.  I loved the predictability back then and maybe I will again in the future.  I am working on that!  My whole point is that I have made this stew twice in the past week and at first I was shocked that I had, but then the reasons became obvious.  First, it is absolutely delicious and incredibly healthy- packed with vegetables, beans, and whole grain orzo.  Second, there is minimal prep time chopping and then it all goes in the crockpot- done!  Bonus- my 20 month old loves it! 

3 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled & chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
1 bay leaf, dried
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried rosemary
32 oz. chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small pieces (I use one half package of the precut)
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped
1 cup whole wheat orzo
1 package of mild chicken sausage (thinly sliced)
fresh ground pepper
parmesan cheese, for topping

1. Combine all ingredients except pasta in the bowl of a crockpot. Cover and cook on high, 3-4 hours.
2. Ten minutes before eating, add the pasta. Just before serving, remove bay leaf.
3. Ladle soup into bowls and top with parmesan cheese.

September 22, 2011

Roasted Chicken

I think that most people that enjoy cooking have a threshold of where their comfort zone begins and ends in the kitchen. Maybe it is triggered by uncommon ingredients, multi- step processes or fear of just going through the steps and getting it all wrong. I am very familiar with that feeling and still encounter it on a regular basis, but I have learned that the challenge always brings me back and at some point those daunting recipes become small but important feats in my culinary adventures. Believe it or not, roasted chicken was one of those dishes for me up until a couple of years ago. Even with a meat thermometer, I could not envision myself pulling a perfectly moist, yet golden brown bird out of the oven. I am so thankful that I tackled this one, because I am telling you, this is the easiest dinner to pull together for company or family. It can be prepared in advance (*see note below), it fills your house with the most inviting and comforting smell, and it presents beautifully on a platter. Fall is fast approaching; there is no better time to try it!

Perfect Roasted Chicken
Serves 3-4
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

· 1 4 1/2 lb roasting chicken
· Kosher salt
· Freshly ground black pepper
· 1 large bunch fresh thyme- divided
· 1 lemon, quartered
· 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
· 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the most of the thyme, lemon quarters, and all the garlic. Rub the outside of the chicken with the oil and sprinkle again with salt and pepper- be generous. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions and carrots in the roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, and the left over sprigs of thyme, Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 55 minutes-65 minutes depending on the weight of the chicken, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

*To prepare in advance: clean, stuff, tie, and season the chicken. Place it in the roasting dish over the vegetables and cover with plastic wrap. Keep in in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When you are ready to roast it, pull it out for 30 minutes so that it can sit at room temperature prior to going into the preheated oven.

September 15, 2011

Quick Shrimp and Grits

Let me start by saying that am from NC so I do know that most self-respecting Southerners find the thought of instant grits abhorring.  I used to subscribe to that school of thought, however the other night I caved during a desperate attempt to make dinner before falling asleep standing up- hence the “Quick Shrimp and Grits”.  If you have the time I would use stone ground grits and let them simmer to creamy perfection, but if you are trying to get dinner on the table in 15 minutes this is your short cut.    Keeping frozen shrimp in your freezer (peeled and deveined) will make this even easier.   This is a great weeknight dinner, but I would most certainly serve it to company, it is that good!

Quick Shrimp and Grits
Serves 3

·         3 cups water
·         Salt and pepper
·         1 cup instant grits
·         1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
·         ¾  pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
·         4 slices bacon, chopped
·         2 tablespoons lemon juice
·         1 cup thinly sliced scallions
·         1 ½ cups chopped mushrooms
·         2 large cloves garlic, minced
·         ½ cup white wine
·         1 tablespoon butter

In a microwave safe dish add the grits, water, salt and pepper and cook until thick, but still a little runny (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.

Meanwhile rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; remove from the pan. In grease, add mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes, and then add scallions garlic and shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, white wine and simmer for 3 minutes. Add butter.

Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well and top with chopped bacon. Serve immediately.

August 4, 2011

Penne with Smashed Peas, Sausage, and Ricotta Cheese

With countless days of 100+ degree heat and summer colds rotating throughout our house I can safely say that preparing dinner has not been a top priority over the past few weeks.  Finally last night, after weeks of takeout, sandwiches, and pizza I hit my breaking point with the cooking boycott and surrendered to the kitchen. With comfort food in mind I turned to my pitifully stocked pantry and refrigerator for inspiration. Comfort food translates into different things for different people, but for me a nice starchy carb usually gets the job done. With a box of pasta, some chicken sausage and frozen peas I was able to throw this meal together in 15 minutes. A welcomed transition from my little hiatus!

Penne with Smashed Peas, Sausage, and Ricotta Cheese
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 6


· ½ pound whole wheat penne pasta
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 3 cloves garlic, chopped
· 1 pound hot Italian chicken or turkey sausage, casings removed
· 8oz frozen peas, thawed
· 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
· 1 bunch fresh basil leaves chopped (about 3/4 cup)
· 1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
· 1 teaspoon salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes if dry or according to package directions if fresh. Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into bite-sized bits. When the sausage has browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the peas to the pan and, using the back of the wooden spoon, smash the peas. Turn off the heat. Add the ricotta cheese along with the cooked pasta and toss to coat, adding the pasta cooking water in 1/4 cup additions, if needed, to make the pasta moist. Return the sausage to the pan. Add the basil, PecorinoRomano cheese, and salt. Toss gently to coat and serve immediately.

July 14, 2011

Seared Tuna with Avocado

Coming off vacation is hard, that is all there is to it.  Getting back to all of the responsibilities, schedules and trying to establish a routine sometimes makes me want to turn the car around and go back!  Our transition this week was made a little easier when a friend surprised us with fresh caught tuna on his way back from the beach.  This would be a luxury on any given day, but especially on a day when we had nothing, literally nothing, to eat in the house.  My husband and I both love tuna, so we decided to prepare it two ways, as sashimi and then seared with fresh sliced avocado.  Not only was this delicious, but really light and satisfying after over a week of vacation indulgence! 

Seared Tuna with Avocado
Serves 2-3
Adapted from

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 jalapeño chiles, seeded, de-ribbed, minced 
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
Juice from 3 limes
1/3 cup soy sauce 
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 (6 ounce) blocks sashimi-quality tuna
Salt and pepper
1 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced

In a mixing bowl, combine the cilantro, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup of olive oil.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle the tuna pieces with salt and pepper. Sear the tuna for a minute on each side. Pour half of the cilantro mixture into the pan to coat the fish.

Transfer the seared tuna to plates and serve with the sliced avocado and the remaining cilantro sauce drizzled over the whole plate.

June 30, 2011

Happy 4th Weekend, a little early

  • We are off for a little vacation! I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July! Anyone up for baking this weekend? I am usually the last person that volunteers to make dessert, it is just not my thing, but this time of year I will step up to the plate just so I have a reason to make this cake. I have made it several years and not only is it fun to make, but it is always a festive addition to the food table. The trusty Barefoot Contessa never lets you down in taste either! 

    Flag Cake Recipe
    Recipe courtesy of Barefoot Contessa

    Cake Ingredients
    18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
    3 cups sugar
    6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
    1 cup sour cream at room temperature
    1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    3 cups flour
    1/3 cup cornstarch
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda

    For the icing:
    1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
    1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
    1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
    1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    To assemble:
    2 half-pints blueberries
    3 half-pints raspberries
    Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

    Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

    Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

    For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.

    Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

    I serve this cake right in the pan. If you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when 
    you grease and flour the pan.

June 28, 2011

Peach Salsa

On a bit of a peach kick here! Hard not to be with perfectly ripe peaches in every market. This is the perfect summer salsa made with seasonal fruits and vegetables; all you need is a food processor to create the right consistency. Its colorful presentation and delicate balance of sweet, spicy, and fresh flavor makes this salsa very well received. I am particularly fond of the sweetness from the peaches that helps balance out the acidity from the tomatoes and lime. This can be served as a dip with chips or alongside your favorite grilled chicken or fish as your new light and refreshing summer condiment. Make it soon while all of your ingredients are in season!

Peach Salsa
Adapted from Pink Parsley

2 ripe peaches, peeled and  chopped
3 medium tomatoes, seeded chopped
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, and diced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
juice of 1 ½ limes
¾ teaspoon salt
1/8  teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse 10-15 times, or until desired consistency is reached. Add salt, pepper or lime to taste.

June 24, 2011

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I am sure this will come as no surprise due to my lack of posts over the past two weeks, but I have taken a little hiatus from cooking. I always go through these phases where I will cook something new every night for a while, and then take a week off to eat leftovers out of the freezer and meet my take out quota for the month. It is especially difficult to get motivated this time of year when the days are long and I am not even thinking about dinner until 7:30. The nights that I can pull it together and put dinner on the table, pizza is often involved. I have mentioned before that I like to keep fresh dough in the freezer for these last minute dinners because it keeps for a month or two and it thaws out in less than an hour. One of my all-time favorite pizzas is BBQ chicken pizza. Using rotisserie chicken that I have either purchased or roasted myself and a bottled BBQ sauce makes this dinner essentially thoughtless! I usually hit this with a heavy hand of cilantro to finish it off, but this is totally optional.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
Serves 3

1 ball of fresh pizza dough rolled out to a 12-inch diameter
Cornmeal for dusting and rolling
1+ cup of bottled BBQ sauce (I use KC Masterpiece Original)- DIVIDED
1 ½ cups diced or shredded chicken
¼ finely diced red onion
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and diced
1 cup Monterey jack cheese (Gouda or mozzarella are also delicious)
½ cup chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 450.
Mix the shredded chicken, red onion, jalapeno pepper and ½ cup of the BBQ sauce.
Roll the pizza dough out on a surface that is lightly dusted with cornmeal and place on your pizza stone or on your baking sheet.
Spread the remaining BBQ sauce over the dough followed by chicken mixture and then topped with the cheese.
Bake in a preheated 450F oven until golden brown, about 8-12 minutes.
Serve garnished with the chopped cilantro.

June 17, 2011

Black Bean Dip

Over the past 4 years, my husband and I have been part of a supper club consisting of a group our dearest friends that get together once a month to have dinner. It has truly become such an enjoyable time for us all to get together, try new foods, and catch up on our busy lives. I always look forward to the amazing foods that my friends prepare each month; as they are all fabulous and inspiring cooks. Today I am sharing a black bean dip recipe that one of my girlfriends served a few years back. It has remained a staple on my appetizer rotation over the years for its simplicity and crowd pleasing effect. If you have a microwave, a can opener, no time and an appetizer to make, then this one is for you!

Black Bean Dip
Recipe courtesy of Kathie Stronach
Serves 8-10

1 can black beans
1 8 oz block reduced fat cream cheese
¼ cup diced red onion
4 Tbl jalapeño jelly or any hot jelly

Mix well and microwave the beans and cream cheese, once warmed add onions and jelly. Serve with tortilla chips.

June 13, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

This time of year the farmer's market is one of my favorite places to visit.  The produce found at a local market is usually less expensive and certainly more fresh and flavorful than anything you will find at your neighborhood grocery store.  It is an experience in itself to go and walk the market and see what local products are available.  This past weekend  my market was filled with peaches, blueberries, strawberries, okra, peas and corn at every stand, but the tomatoes were the real show stoppers.  They were represented in every color, shape and size.  Inspired by the green variety, I decided to try out fried green tomatoes as a side dish for dinner on Sunday night.  Quick, easy, and absolutely delicious; these tomatoes will be popping up again on our menu very soon.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Serves 3-4
Courtesy of

3 medium, firm green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
2/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Let tomato slices stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes.

2 Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Dip tomato slices in milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 4-6 minutes on each side or until brown. As you cook the rest of the tomatoes, add olive oil as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

June 6, 2011

Peach Sangria

We hosted a cocktail party this weekend in honor of my husband finishing graduate school; it was a true celebratory occasion! It was so fun to change things up a bit from our typical dinner party by inviting more friends and having an assortment of food and fun drinks. I think there are a couple options you have as a host when considering a cocktail party. Either providing a fully stocked bar offering your guests a wide variety of their favorite nondescript libation combinations, or having one or two specialty cocktails in addition to basic beer and wine. We opted for the specialty cocktails for this occasion and decided on two our current favorites: Peach Sangria and Old Fashioneds. I was in charge of the sangria and did find it to be a little daunting as I wanted to find the PERFECT recipe, not too sweet too sweet and not too strong. Thankfully, the credibility of my new favorite magazine, Garden and Gun put my mind at ease with their Peach Sangria recipe that is from SNOB (Slightly North of Broad) Restaurant in Charleston, SC. This recipe is delicious! It requires the best of the best as far as peaches are concerned, but the white wine, on the other hand, does not have to be fancy. I used wine from Trader Joes that worked perfectly. The only thing that I did not add is the splash of Sprite, because I do not care for the sweetness. Make extra- it goes fast!!

Peach Sangria
Recipe courtesy of Garden and Gun  

5 ripe freestone peaches, halved then sliced ¼-inch thick
1 orange, halved then sliced ¼-inch thick
2 lemons, sliced in ¼-inch circles
1 can (5.5 oz) pineapple juice (to color)
½ bottle Riesling Spätlese
2 bottles pinot grigio
2 ½ oz Hiram Walker peach brandy
2 ½ oz peach schnapps
2 ½ oz Triple Sec

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

To serve:
Add 5 oz of mixture to glass (include 5–6 pieces of fruit), fill glass with ice, and add a splash of soda water and a splash of Sprite.

June 3, 2011

Watermelon and Feta Salad

This summer heat is brutal already!  I have been working hard on finding some fun side dishes for summer meals, that meet the following criteria:  few ingredients, simple preparation, served cold.   The first one I have for you, is this Watermelon and Feta Salad.  Cool, light, and easy to prepare- it hits all the marks!  More to come!