Category Archives: Family Dinner Favorites

Pioneer Woman’s Tequila Lime Chicken

My day is starting to get away from me and I promised to tell you about Tequila Lime Chicken. I must tell you about Tequila Lime Chicken because you must know! Especially with Cinco de Mayo right around the corner!

This recipe comes from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. And is in her Food From My Frontier Cookbook. I love the Pioneer Woman almost as much as I love The Barefoot Contessa – maybe it’s their sassy nick-names? Okay, fantastic recipes, talented personalities and sassy nick-names. Whatever it is, they’re my girls – even though they have absolutely no idea that they’re my girls.

Pioneer Woman’s Tequila Lime Chicken

Just click the linked recipe title above and it will take you right to the recipe.

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The first time I tried this chicken, I was completely blown away. There is something truly magical that happens to chicken breasts when they luxuriate for several hours in this tequila based marinade. I’m pretty sure luxuriate is a word. Sometimes a word sounds good in my head, I type it and then I doubt. Luxuriate. Yup, it’s a word and the only word that seems to fit here.

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Limes, avocados, jalapeno … oh, my! You know only good things can come of this.

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Good things do not always come of this but when you soak chicken in it; it’s a good thing.

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          You will need your food processor or blender to make the marinade for the chicken. Limes, garlic cloves, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, olive oil, tequila …

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yes, good things are about to happen.

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Once all of the marinade ingredients are combined, place your boneless skinless chicken breasts in a large plastic zip-lock type bag and pour the marinade in. Zip it up and let it marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or over night. The longer the better, a few hours just isn’t enough; you really want the chicken and the tequila to have some time together.

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Oh, and don’t get a few chicken breasts in the bag and then decide you’d rather use the tongs that are on the counter behind you than your hands, forcing you to let go of the bag that you think is balanced on the counter because the bag could collapse and some of your precious (and messy) marinade could end up on the floor.

Or so I’ve heard.

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After there has been enough luxuriation (now that is not a word but I still like it), just grill the chicken breasts and serve with your favorite festive sides. I served mine with Grilled Corn Salad (which I shared with you yesterday) and a refreshing Avocado Mango Salad that I will share with you tomorrow.

In fact I think I’ll run to the store and get some mangos and make it again tomorrow for lunch. Purely in the interest of quality control and one last test run of course.

Enjoy!

 

The Pizza Night Tradition!

In our house, every Friday night is Pizza & Movie Night. It is “tradition” and it is our favorite night of the week because we have made it to the end of another busy week and get to relax and have fun together.

As a family, we have many “traditions”. It is important for all kids to have some sort of structure, routine and predictability in their daily lives but for kids that have experienced a whole lot of unpredictability, stress and trauma, it is absolutely crucial. So, we have traditions.

Heck, who am I kidding, routine and structure are crucial for me too. I like order and predictability. I am a girl who has a plan and a list for everything. Flexibility is not my super power and I freely admit it. Thankfully, I am not a control freak. I am a recovering control freak who is now able to appreciate the fact that God gave me three little people who are perfectly wired to test my resolve help me grow on a daily basis.

Yup, that God, he’s a funny guy. Have you heard the saying the way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans? Well, I am absolutely certain that I provide Him with constant amusement, in oh so many ways. Thankfully, I have learned through His endless grace and constant mercy to trust Him even when the need for plan B or C or even D arises. That being said, I will always have a list or two going. I can’t help myself.

So while control is not the goal (hmmm, alliteration, I’m not usually a fan but I think maybe that should be my new motto), we are still very intentional about how our daily lives are lived. We have to be and meal time is no exception. Every night, we eat together at the dinner table as a family. If daddy is going to be late then the kids eat together and I sit with them and then enjoy dinner with Gary when he gets home. We practice sitting still, eating with manners (and forks) and we talk over our day like ladies and gentlemen; or at least we try.

But not on Fridays.

Yes, built into our structure, routine and predictability is pizza night.

Every Friday night, we eat with our fingers, slurp on a root beer (or a glass of wine – I do try not to slurp my wine but it really just depends on how much “growing” I have done during the week) in front of the TV while we watch a movie. It is messy and a little unhealthy (everyone needs a root beer once in a while) but that is good because it is fun and it is tradition and no body ever said order and routine had to be boring.

Come to think of it, neither does pizza.

Sometimes we order our pizza but often times we make it ourselves. The most fun is to have a bunch of different toppings laid out and then everyone makes their own individual pizza.

Sometimes the crust is homemade, sometimes it is Trader Joe’s dough or my favorite Archer Farms brand Ultra Thin and Crispy, sometimes it is a ciabatta roll, whole wheat tortilla or a piece of pita bread; see, I can be flexible. More and more we make our own pizza. It is just tastes better and after spending $60 or more on delivery only to have each kid eat one piece compared to watching them devour every bit of the homemade stuff, homemade wins.

I’m going to share my favorite homemade pizza with you because I’m the mom and because my pizza is the best. In fact, let’s just call it “Mom’s White Pizza is the Best”, because a) it is a white pizza; b) that is what I dance around and chant after every perfect bite; and c) it is the best.

Then, I will share a list of some of our favorite pizza toppings. Because lists are awesome.

Mom’s White Pizza is the Best (that part can be optional – look at me being flexible)

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Here’s what I do …

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Pizza-Crust-2Decide on my crust. These Archer Farm’s crusts (found at Target) are wonderful. I am totally a thin and crispy devotee and these are convenient, low cal and really good. I have not been asked to endorse this product in any way (hello, small potatoes here) I am just sharing them because I have tried them and think they are great!

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Spread a generous layer of plain old Ricotta cheese on my thin and crispy crust.

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Drizzle on some olive oil.

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And add whatever toppings sound good.

Here I’ve got fresh mozzarella, freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil.

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Bake it according to the crust’s directions. This was baked at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.

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On this one I added a little bit of Sun Dried Tomato Pesto. Amazing.

And there you have it, Mom’s White Pizza; which is not entirely white but we’ll stick with that because of the Ricotta “sauce”. I also love to top it with arugula and fresh halved grape tomatoes, placed on the pizza just after it comes out of the oven.

For the record, while this is an individual pizza, I do not eat the entire thing in one sitting.

Well not unless I have “grown” considerably that day.

Moving on.

A big hit with my kids is a recent discovery.

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I had some left over ciabatta rolls and decided to make pizza with them. I topped them with traditional pizza sauce, turkey pepperoni, fresh mozzarella and freshly grated parmesan.

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I just popped them under the broiler and crisped them up (3-5 minutes) and my kids inhaled them. In fact, they have requested them for pizza night again tonight. David wants me to add bacon to his though. I will. Because I love him.

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Serve this ciabatta pizza with a few hot wings, yogurt blue cheese dressing and a side salad and it’s perfect for mom and dad too.

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As for dad, his basic pizza requirements are no white sauce (it has to be red or it isn’t pizza) and it must be covered in jalapeno peppers. Good. But not “the best”.

There are a lot of different toppings that we’ve tried and enjoyed and everyone certainly has their favorites. As promised, here are a list of some of ours (I will let you guess who likes what) …

  • Pesto as pizza sauce
  • Asiago Cheese
  • Romano Cheese
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Hamburger and Onion
  • BBQ Sauce, BBQ Chicken, Cheddar Cheese and Red Onion
  • Caramelized Onions or Shallots and Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Brown Butter Fried Sage Leaves and Sausage

Truly, the possibilities are endless. I would love to know what some of your favorite pizza toppings are and if you have pizza night too or any other fun family traditions.

Happy Pizza Night!

Enjoy! 

Greek Salad

All of my company left yesterday. I had a great time with my mom, sister and aunt and enjoyed some beautiful hikes, shopping (I’ll tell you about my thrift store score later) and of course a lot of cooking and eating. Really, it was just wonderful being together and I miss them already. Sometimes the hardest part about welcoming company is having to say goodbye.

I told you about our trip to the market and how we were shopping for ingredients for Greek Salad and I also promised to tell you all about that Greek Salad, so today, that is what I am going to do.

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Greek Salad is one of my favorite things to make, especially for a crowd. I love anything that you can arrange on a platter and allow guests to pick and choose and serve themselves; easy, fun and delicious. I can’t swear that each ingredient I like truly falls into the “Greek” category but this is my interpretation; call it “food poetic license.”

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There are a lot of protein possibilities for a Greek salad, lamb kabobs or lamb burgers would be great! Most often, I like to grill marinated chicken breasts and then slice them. Here’s how I marinate them:

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped (or 2 Tbsp. dried Greek Seasoning)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Put everything together in a gallon sized plastic zip-lock bag and marinate in the fridge for several hours. Grill the chicken over medium-high heat, 4-5 minutes per side. Let them rest for at least 5 minutes and then slice them or cut them into bite sized pieces.

And now for a few of my favorite “Greek” things …

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On a platter, I have arranged diced hot-house (English) cucumber, jarred roasted red peppers, golden and red tomatoes, a feta cheese/olive combo from the deli, jarred marinated artichoke hearts, plain feta cheese cut into chunks and drizzled with olive oil and finally, garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed) that I squeezed the juice of one lemon over and then sprinkled with julienned mint leaves and a pinch of kosher salt.

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I always serve Greek Salad with hummus. Because I love hummus. In fact, my whole family loves hummus so for us, it is an obvious choice. Wedges of soft whole wheat pita bread are a nice (and very popular) touch.

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I used Organic Girl Super Greens for this particular salad. A combo of baby greens that I hadn’t tried before; red & green swiss chard, tat soi (that one I’m going to have to google), arugula and spinach. Delicious, fresh and crunchy! You could certainly use whatever greens you like; romaine, spinach, mesclun, etc.

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Set out a stack of plates and forks and let everyone build their own salad. Serve with a nice red wine vinaigrette. I actually really like Briannas Homestyle Blush Wine Vinaigrette and use it all the time but you can quickly and easily make your own …

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano or 2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

Put it all in a mason jar, tighten the lid and shake it up. For any vinaigrette, the trick to remember is the ratio of 1 part acid (citrus, vinegar, etc.) to three parts fat (oil) and from there, the possibilities are endless. That being said, I personally prefer a 1:2 ratio – a little more zing, a little less fat. Try it out and see what works for you.

Since I started food blogging, the joke in the house has become “who is going to get the pretty plate?” – the plate arranged and used for the final photo. In this case, with all of the color and variety, all of the plates were pretty and didn’t take a whole lot of “styling”.

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As always, I hope you’ll give this “recipe” a try, make it your own and enjoy!

Oh, and as for those thrift shop treasures …

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Enameled cast iron.

When I saw the set, I did a double take – when I saw the price, I did a happy dance. I don’t know the manufacturer as they are unmarked but they are heavy and gorgeous and other than a small chip here or there, barely used. Happy, happy dance.

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The oval dutch oven alone was a score. I’m not sure if it is tacky to disclose what I paid for the lot but I will say this, mid-double digits and I am still smiling ear to ear in disbelief.

And then I found this too …

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a Portmeirion quiche (or flan) dish.

I think my aunt and sister may make a thrift store shopper out of me yet!

Love, Laughter and Chicken Soup, the Best Medicine

At the end of Friday’s post, I mentioned my sick little guy – you’ve got to love pre-school, a small room filled with still developing immune systems and every germ known to man. Poor guy was pretty miserable with a yucky stomach bug that was most UN-welcome company. Thankfully, it seems to have stayed confined, especially since we will have a houseful of company this week; welcome company in this case, my mom, my aunt and one of my sisters. I am so excited for us all to be together and would very much like for it to be a healthy visit.

So sorry for the most unappetizing start, how about we switch direction to something that will make all of us feel better, Chicken Soup.

Chicken soup, like French toast, is another thing I have always made intuitively, adding in veggies I have on hand in amounts that “seem right”; a little bit of celery, onion, carrot, fresh thyme. Not surprising seeing as I learned to cook from “dump cooks” as my great-aunt used to say; “dump in a little of this, dump in a little of that”, you get the idea.

Chicken soup is a forgiving concoction that allows for you to play around a little bit. Chicken broth with give you a clearer, lighter soup broth but if you want a darker more richly flavored broth, use stock. I do make my own stock from time to time and freeze it so that I have it on hand but when I run out, I just use the good stuff from the store; just be sure it is low-sodium so that you can control the seasoning.

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This is the post Thanksgiving turkey carcass stock simmering away. One of my favorite “leftovers”.

If you want to make your own stock, I highly recommend it and of course, I recommend following the Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken Stock recipe.

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I use rotisserie chicken from the grocery store in a pinch but have learned (yes, from Ina) that roasting your own chicken breast is the way to go. So, I roast the chicken breasts just how she taught me; bone-in, skin-on, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. I am completely addicted to Herbs de Provence so I can’t help but sprinkle a little on for good measure. Completely addicted. I don’t need all of this chicken for soup but I always roast more to have on hand for salads, casseroles or whatever else I might have planned for the week.

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Once the chicken is cooled, you can shred it or chop it into bite sized pieces. For the soup, two to three breasts (depending on their size) is a good amount but use as much or as little as you like; it’s your soup!

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I always add fresh thyme to my soup and have been experimenting with a sprinkle of fresh parsley just before serving.

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Of course, carrots, onions and celery are a must. Just a bit of trivia, the French culinary term for this trio is mirepoix. According to Wikepedia, a mirepoix (pron.: meer-PWAH) can be a combination of celery (either common pascal celery or celeriac), onions, and carrots. There are many regional mirepoix variations, which can sometimes be just one of these ingredients, or include additional spices. Mirepoix, raw, roasted or sautéed with butter or olive oil, is the flavor base for a wide variety of dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces. The three ingredients are commonly referred to as aromatics. I love knowing this sort of thing and yes, my “mirepoix” does have some garlic in it. I love garlic so in it goes.

Play around with the vegetables. Add leeks if you like or turnips. Here I’ve used 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks and one small onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces.

Chicken-Soup-8I like to saute’ my aromatics in a little bit of butter and olive oil (a couple of tablespoons of each) and a pinch of Kosher salt, just to soften them up a bit and deepen their flavors; about 5 minutes.

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Add in your stock or broth (about 2 quarts) and the fresh thyme (the leaves pulled from 3 or 4 sprigs) bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the chicken and a handful of chopped parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. Parsley note: my kids love homemade chicken soup. They DO NOT love the parsley added in. As Nathan says, “what ‘dis green stuff? I can’t like ‘dis green stuff.” Use parsley at your discretion or at the discretion of your pickiest eater.

If I decide to make chicken noodle soup, I’ll add in a package of linguine or wide egg noodles (I like the linguine best – just break it up a little bit) after the soup has come to a boil and then simmer for the amount of time recommended on the pasta package. If you use fresh pasta, allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes before you add the pasta as it only takes a few minutes to cook.

Give the soup a taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly.

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If I am making soup to deliver to someone, I love to put it in mason jars.

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It looks homemade, is easy to deliver, tucks nicely into a care package and your recipient doesn’t have to worry about returning your cookware or dishes to you. Be sure to take along a loaf of crusty bread! I put the care package above together for a friend who was recovering from surgery so flowers and a good magazine were a must.

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I know there are a lot of “abouts” and “a couple of’s” and “sprinkles” and “dashes” in this recipe but that is because I want you to experiment and make it your own. Cook intuitively, to your taste, how you and your family like it. This is a soup that has to be made with love and laughter and fun. You don’t need a recipe, just a willing heart to make something warm, healthy and comforting for someone you love.

Speaking of “someone loved” … happily, my boy is feeling much better. Last night, he crawled up in my lap and snuggled in. I kissed the top of his sweet head and said to him, “I am so glad you are feeling better.” And he said to me, “I am so glad you are my mommy.” I love it when God gives us those moments. I will never forget it. I am so glad to be his mommy too and I will never make him eat chicken soup with parsley in it again.

Family Dinner Favorite: Barefoot Contessa’s Lentil Sausage Soup

I can’t remember which dinner favorite number I’m on, so I’ve decided to drop that catchy part of the dinner favorite series. Suffice it to say that this hearty, healthy and insanely delicious soup is most definitely a favorite – even with the kids.

If you have read many of my recipe posts then you will not be surprised to learn that this recipe comes from …

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Right! The Barefoot Contessa. Oh to be “Barefoot in Paris” – well, not all of Paris but I’m sure there are some parts where it is safe to be barefoot – a park maybe? The Jardin des Plantes or the Champ de Mars (I totally googled those) or the Louvre – okay maybe not the Louvre. If you ever do go barefoot in the Louvre in Paris, you really do have to come back here and tell me all about it!

Anyway, all tangents aside, this soup is one of my all time favorite things to eat. In case you were starting to think otherwise, we really do eat pretty healthy around here; apple dumplings and fancy mac and cheese are treats, delicious heavenly treats, but not staples on the regular menu.

Like so much of the food I love, this soup holds special memories for me. One of the first times I made it was two years ago when my high school friend Tara came from San Francisco to spend Thanksgiving with us. She flew in late in the evening, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, after a long day of work in the corporate jungle. I knew that she needed to walk into warmth and comfort, feeling welcome and at home and wondering what that amazing smell was coming from the kitchen. It’s my job to know, I’m her friend.

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After a big hug and a few tears, I invited her to settle into the guest room, put on her jammies and warm socks and relax by the fire; letting the stress of a hectic pace and demanding job begin to melt away (and be replaced by the stress of three wild, really loud little kids who all want “Auntie Tara’s” attention at the same time – never mind that, just think warm and peaceful thoughts; it helps). I made quite a few yummy things for her during that visit (including Thanksgiving dinner) but that first evening of catching up around a warm fire with a steaming bowl of this soup is what stands out most in my memory. I hope it does in hers as well. I love you my friend.

Barefoot Contessa’s Lentil Sausage Soup

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Yes, it looks delicious and it tastes even better.

Give yourself about two hours. The soup is easy to make but time-consuming with a lot of chopping and important steps that ensure proper flavor development. Take your time and enjoy the process, that is, afterall,  half the joy of creating a dish like this.

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Start with French Green Lentils

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I can only find them at one store (a specialty grocer) and they are pricey but Ina swears they are the most tender and flavorful of the lentils. Who am I to question? I will try it sometime with brown or red lentils though, just to see for myself.

Now for the chopping (which is very therapeutic if you didn’t know) …

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onions and leeks – sorry, I forgot to buy the leeks this time but the soup turned out great anyway.

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Carrots, medium dice.

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Celery, medium dice as well – split the stalk lengthwise and chop; be sure to use the celery leaves too, don’t throw them away.

Lentil-Soup-7Thyme and garlic. Be still my heart.

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Saute’ the onions, leeks (if you remembered to buy them), garlic, thyme and seasonings first.

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Add in the celery and carrots. If you are a food nerd like me, you can tell me what the French term is for the carrot, celery, onion combo – I know you can, even if you won’t admit it.

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Then the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils.

Lentil Soup 12Use a good chicken STOCK, not just broth – it really does make a difference.

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Add in the Kielbasa – the lower fat Turkey Kielbasa tastes great in the soup and is better for you.

Lentil-Soup-14The recipe calls for a splash of red wine, so since the bottle had to be opened anyway …

Lentil-Soup-18A glass of wine, a slice of crusty bread,

Lentil-Soup-19all that’s left is to sit down with someone you love and make some happy, warm memories.

Enjoy!

Family Dinner Favorites: Easy Parmesan “Risotto”, the Perfect Side

Yesterday, I promised to tell you about the “Risotto” I served with Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Chicken Breast. I would NEVER want to disappoint you so here is the scoop on this incredibly easy and delicious side dish that you MUST have in your culinary arsenal. This is also a Barefoot Contessa Recipe – of course, the woman is a genius – and comes from the “How Easy is That?” cookbook; here’s the link …

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Easy Parmesan “Risotto”

“Risotto” is in quotes because the end result is a creamy rice dish but the preparation is nothing like a risotto; that is why it is easy.

Put the arborio rice in a dutch oven with chicken or vegetable stock and cook it in the oven for about 50 minutes. No ladling stock, no standing over the stove.

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Play around with how you finish it. Change up the vegetables or cheese. You may need to reduce the cooking time slightly and add a little more “finishing” stock than it calls for to make sure it is creamy and not sticky.

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Easy-Risotto-5“Nathan, what do you have in your hand?”

“Peas mommy, I yike dem!”

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Frozen Peas, the perfect snack for a five-year-old. Who knew?

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The only thing I can’t tell you is how the Easy Parmesan “Risotto” in Ina’s cookbook picture is white as cooking the rice in stock makes the dish a creamy, buttery color. Which I think is very attractive.

I have a lot of recipes I love. This is one I will never be without!

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Family Dinner Favorites: Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Chicken

Family dinner favorite #4 comes from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I love her. She’s my favorite! I also love this recipe so much that I made it for Christmas dinner two years ago when my husband deployed on Christmas Day and it was just the kids and I for dinner.

I was tired and not up for the big production that Christmas dinner usually is. I had baked dozens and dozens of cookies and multiple loaves of pumpkin bread for my husband to take with him on his trip. I wanted to send a little bit of Christmas from home to the injured troops he and his crew would be flying out of harms way and the medical staff that would accompany them. With all of that baking and preparation to get him ready to leave, I just needed something simple but delicious and a little bit special for dinner for the kids and I; it was still Christmas after all. This lemon chicken dish was perfect.

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So easy! And delicious. Thanks Ina!

I’ve made this dish many times since then and it still brings back memories of a simple Christmas nestled on the couch with the kids watching a movie. I love how food can do that. A reminder of the surprising contentment and peace I felt, even while knowing we were sending daddy off and would miss him terribly. Truly, we had nothing to feel sad or complain about as he was going to help the men and women who were injured fighting for us and were so far away from their own families. That was a special Christmas as it was such a great lesson for our kids to see that we are often called to willingly and graciously make sacrifices in order to do what is right; to help however and wherever we can, and to put the needs of others before our own. It is an honor to serve and military families serve too. I am thankful still for that Christmas Day.

The good news for you is that you don’t have to wait until Christmas to enjoy this wonderful dish. With a little bit of preparation, it is a great weeknight meal or a perfect Sunday dinner; just click the link below to find the recipe and get ready to chop some garlic.

Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Chicken Breasts

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Lemon, thyme and garlic. What’s not to love?

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Nine, yes nine, cloves of garlic …

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which become part of an incredibly flavorful sauce when heated with olive oil, thyme and lemon.

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The recipe calls for bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts but I use boneless, skinless if I don’t have them. Just decrease the cooking time a bit.

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Be sure to finish the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes to give it nice color and crisp up the skin if you are using skin-on breasts.

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I serve it with Ina’s Easy Parmesan “Risotto” which is a must have side dish that I use all the time and will share with you tomorrow – so be sure and stop back by.

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I am usually a Cabernet kind of girl but I really love this with a nice buttery Chardonnay.

But then maybe that’s just because it’s part of the memory.

Enjoy! And as you do, maybe say a little prayer for the men and women who remain in harms way, answering the call so far from their own dinner tables and the ones they love.