Tag Archives: Dinner

Cauliflower Shrimp Fried Rice; AKA Cauli-Rice

Is there a more recognized American Chinese takeout dish than fried rice? I can’t think of one. Okay, well maybe Chow-Mein but today we’re talking rice.

Fried rice.

Delicious, yes. Healthy, not so much. Sadly traditional fried rice is loaded with sodium and high-carbohydrate, insulin spiking white rice. Not exactly top of the menu for anyone wishing to drop a few pounds or clean up their diet. Which is sad business if you are like me and absolutely love the stuff.

“The next time you’re at a Chinese restaurant, back away from the fried rice … many dishes are loaded with sodium, oil and carbs,” says Jayne Hurley, a senior nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Those dishes are basically three quarters of a day’s calories, and you’re just getting four or five cups of white rice with oil and a sprinkling of vegetables,” Hurley says. They’re especially dangerous because they’re often served alongside people’s main orders, she says, and deliver “not much more than a smattering of vegetables or protein from the meat.” Unhealthy Chinese Food Choices,

Bummer.

But all is not lost because in steps cauli-rice to the rescue. Cauli-rice is something I have been eating a lot of lately and am absolutely loving. If cauli-rice is unfamiliar to you, I am about to expand your healthy option horizons. What is it exactly? It is “rice”, made out of cauliflower.  Or cauliflower grated to mimic rice in just about everyway.

Did you just close your eyes, sigh and shake your head in a skeptical fashion?

Okay, you may not believe it but I am asking you to trust me here and go with me on this … it looks, tastes and acts like rice; except for the fact that it doesn’t raise your blood sugar and spike your insulin. Really, it does. Still skeptical? Here, let me prove it to you.

Cauliflower Shrimp Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large head of cauliflower, grated
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or stock
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 12 ounces shrimp, cooked, cleaned and chopped
  • 6 ounces cubed lean ham
  • 1 cup egg whites
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Scallions, chopped for garnish

Shrimp-Fried-Cauli-Rice-Ing

Directions

Chop your shrimp into small pieces.

Shrimp-Fried-Rice-Shrimp

I thawed these pre-cooked and cleaned shrimp and then cut them into three pieces.

Use a box grater to grate raw cauliflower into “rice”.

Cauli-Rice

It is a messy business but well worth it!

Sauté the cauli-rice in chicken broth for 3 to 5 minutes.

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Add in the remaining ingredients, just to warm them, starting with the peas, then ham and shrimp and finally scrambling in the egg whites by making a well in the center of the rice and pouring them in. This will only take about another 5 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

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Top with a sprinkling of chopped scallions and a splash or Bragg Liquid Aminos in place of soy sauce (it tastes the same and is far better for you) and you’ll have a healthy shrimp fried rice dish that you can fill up on – guilt free!

If you are following the THM lifestyle, you know it is not always easy to come up with truly satisfying “FP” (fuel pull) or even “E” (energizing) meals. This fried rice fits the bill perfectly. I am an “S” loving girl and this has become one of my absolute favorite meals for lunch or dinner.

If you want to make it a bit more hearty, you can fry it up in a few tablespoons of coconut oil and use whole eggs for a satisfying S meal.

My goal with this dish was to make it as “Chinese takeout” authentic as possible. Put skepticism aside, give it a try and let me know how I did.

Enjoy!

Baby Portabella Sliders

I have had my eye on these babies for a while. Baby portabellas that is. As the name would suggest, they are smaller than a full grown portabella but a bit bigger than a cremini. So technically, they are really more of an adolescent portabella.

Baby-Portabellas

So, while that very important distinction has been made, the question what to do with them? remains.

Hmmmm. Slice and sauté or stuff like a cremini? No.

Marinate and grill like a big portabella? No.

More creative. Must be more creative.

They are the perfect size to replace the burger in a slider.

No, that’s not it either. Think. Think. Think.

Does anyone else out there have similar conversations with yourself?

Okay, yes, but do you have them about mushrooms?

Marinate and grill. Burger. Slider. I like it but not the burger. The bun? Oh, now that is intriguing.

The bun. Hmmmm. Sliders with baby portabella mushroom buns.

No bread, low carb, sounds delicious. I like it. I like it very much.

Baby Portabella Sliders it is!

Now, who else should we invite to the party?

Blue-Cheese

Ahhhhh, blue cheese. My favorite party guest.

Applewood-Smoked-Bacon

And applewood smoked bacon. Come on in!

Let’s get this party started!

Baby Portabella Sliders

Frying-Sliders

Prepare slider sized burgers.

You can grill or pan fry them. Right now, it is about 482 degrees outside so I opted for the cast iron on my stovetop in my air-conditioned kitchen. If you are using ground beef at an 80/20 ratio, you don’t really need to do more to it than add a little salt and pepper. I had a leaner blend on hand so to one pound of ground beef, I added one egg as a binder and a dash of cream for moisture (about a tablespoon) along with a bit of freeze-dried parsley just for fun. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. As always, be sure your pan is good and hot before you put the meat in! I am a medium-rare kind of gal so I cooked the burgers on medium-high 4-5 minutes per side.

Marinating-Portabellas

For the “buns”, I pulled the stems out of the mushrooms and then brushed both sides of the caps with Drew’s Rosemary Balsamic Dressing (I absolutely love the stuff) and seasoned both sides with salt and pepper. Use whatever dressing you like or even just a bit of olive oil or coconut oil.

Frying-Portabellas

I adore my cast iron grill pan and it worked perfectly for “grilling” up the mushrooms. Make sure your pan is hot before you put the mushrooms in. I cooked them on medium-high for 2-3 minutes a side. Don’t move the mushrooms after you’ve turned them and you will end up with perfect grill marks.

Now, to build the sliders.

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I selected the least attractive mushroom caps to use as the bottom “bun” and set each on a leaf of butter lettuce. The sizes varied but still worked out just fine.

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Next, the burger patty.

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Blue cheese crumbles.

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Applewood smoked bacon.

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Just a bit of thinly sliced red onion.

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And finally, the second mushroom cap. See those grill marks?

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Buns? What buns? Who needs buns? Not when you’ve got baby portabellas!

These were delicious! The mushrooms were flavorful and juicy and perfect. Messy but perfect.

I can hardly wait to make them again. In fact, I can’t stop thinking about them.

Oh, the possibilities …

Ground lamb with feta crumbles and tzatziki. Maybe a little olive tapenade?

Smoked Cheddar. BBQ sauce. Jalapenos. Caramelized shallots. Garlic aioli. Brie. Pesto. Mozzarella. Roasted red peppers. Goat cheese. Avocados. Serrano ham. Monterey Jack. Pickles.

Infinite possibilities that beg the question … what are your favorite burger toppings?

I would loved to know!

Enjoy!

This Trim Healthy Mama approved “S” recipe is happily linked with other Trim Healthy Tuesday recipes at Stacy Makes Cents and Gwen’s Nest.

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.

Avocados-and-Limes

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.

Jalapeno-Slices

          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!

 

Grilled Corn Salad

It is starting to warm up around here and my mind is quickly heading in the direction of Summer. Maybe it is heading that direction because my children only have a few weeks of school left and I am madly planning their Summer activities.

Bored kids can be unpleasant.

Moms with bored kids can be unpleasant.

Aside from the occasional bout of unpleasantness, I really love summer; and I particularly love summer cooking. To me, summer food is light and fresh and most often grilled and nothing beats dining al fresco.

If you hadn’t heard, Arizona Summers are HOT and the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the stove or the oven. Instead we stand outside, 116 degrees, gentle breeze blowing – as if straight from a hair dryer – and grill. Truthfully, we grill all year-long and probably should be cooking inside in the air conditioning but that just isn’t very summerish now is it?

Besides, there is nothing quite like grilling in a fabulous outdoor kitchen. Would you like to see my fabulous outdoor kitchen?New-BBQ

So would I.

I promise, I’m not poking fun at my hard-workin’ committed DIYer husband who hasn’t had the time yet to move beyond the dry stacking stage. He is way more than capable of building the best outdoor kitchen ever … if only there were about six more hours in a day.

If anyone knows a good (reasonably priced) stone mason in the area you would be my new best friend and my husband would have the best Father’s Day gift ever.

For now, we make do with Old Bessie – I totally just made that up, we don’t really call our ancient gas grill Old Bessie but maybe now we will.

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She’s not pretty but she get’s the job done.

I apologize to anyone with the name Bessie.

Back to the grilled corn salad. Crunchy refreshing salads are the best and I was very excited to give this new one a try. My way, of course.

Grilled Corn Salad

Adapted from “Festive Corn Salad”, Quick and Easy Mexican Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Grilled-Corn

Ingredients

  • 2 cups grilled corn kernels (cut from 3 cobs of corn depending on size)
  • 1 grilled zucchini, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions

I wanted to try this recipe right away but sadly, I was a little early for really good fresh corn. As I couldn’t find any still in the husk, I decided to settled for the only fresh corn that I could find …

Fresh-Corn

To grill them start to finish, they really need to be in the husks (we’ll talk about that when the good stuff starts showing up at the Farmer’s Market) so I had to improvise.

Boiling-Corn

For corn on the cob, I bring a pot of water to a boil, put the corn in, bring it back to a boil, cover and boil for five minutes.

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To get the grilled look and flavor I was after, I then misted the corn with a little olive oil and put them on a very hot grill. If you don’t have an oil mister, get one. Today. Trust me.

Corn-on-Grill

The grill needs to be hot because you want the char marks and flavor but you want them quickly so the corn doesn’t overcook and dry out.

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Halve the zucchini, mist it with olive oil and season it with salt and pepper and then put it on the grill with the corn – just for a few minutes you don’t want it over cooked and mushy.

Grilled-Veggies

Perfect. Now to put the salad together.

Side note on grilled zucchini, it is a great kid veggie as it is the perfect soft texture for them to practice cutting with a knife and fork. I have a set of kid silverware with very safe knives. I start ’em early cutting soft fruits too. They love it!

Cutting-Corn-off-the-Cob

This is NOT a kid safe knife but my kid is holding it for me so that I can hold the corn and the camera. Now that is trust; but I just had to show you my favorite trick for cutting corn off of the cob. Besides, he’s almost nine and is pretty handy to have around.

Just turn a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl, balance the flat end of the corn on the smaller bowl and slice down with a sharp knife. If you are not trying to photograph the process, two hands should be enough.

The corn kernels fall off into the larger bowl. No mess.

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Genius.

I wish I could say I thought of it but I picked it up somewhere on the Food Network.

Red-Bell-Peppers

Next, chop and add the zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, cilantro, onion and jalapeno.

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When a fine dice or mince are called for, just cut small strips (julienne) and then make perfect little pieces.

Diced-Jalapeno-Peppers

With jalapeno or other hot peppers, most of the heat is in the veins and seeds so remove those with a paring knife before you dice the pepper. I don’t mind the heat but I don’t want the little seeds in my salad.

Next add the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and mix well.

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Serve at room temperature or chilled from the fridge.

You can make it a day ahead and it will keep fine.

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I have made this salad a few times now and served it above with tequila lime chicken.

Oh, I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

And that, over there on the side, peeking over the chicken, that is an avocado salad; watch for that one too.

When I made corn salad last weekend to take to a luncheon, I did it a little differently. I didn’t have time to grill the corn or zucchini so I used 2 cans of corn (drained) and sautéed them and the diced zucchini in a few tablespoons of butter for five minutes. As a last-minute add, I also diced up two mangos and tossed those in the salad for a sweet touch that was very well received.

Play around with your favorite ingredients. Make it your own and enjoy!

Beef in Stout by the Fire in an Irish Castle

Beef in Stout … seriously does it get any more Irish than that?

Can’t you just picture yourself in the library of an old Irish castle

JohnstownCastle55843220Photo from advertising for Johnstown Castle, Ireland

(now a cozy hotel with every creature comfort imaginable, delightfully historic but with indoor plumbing, central heat and no ghosts or banshees or sieging Norman invaders), curled up in an overstuffed chair in front of a roaring fire, (yes, my post title was shamelessly misleading) soft tartan plaid cashmere throw draped over your lap.

A polite knock at the door, your dinner has arrived and just in time; that massage in the spa followed by several hours of reading by the fire have left you with quite an appetite. The handsome waiter, let’s call him Seamus, sets a large silver tray on the weathered walnut table by the window overlooking the lush green glens and rocky cliffs that lead down to the sea still glistening in the fading evening light.

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Yes, exactly.

Image from Discover Ireland.

Seamus ladles out steaming, heavenly scented bowls of rich stew topped with wedges of perfectly crusty bread. He flexes slightly as he pours two generous glasses of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, placing the yet to be finished bottle gently back on the table.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking … wouldn’t Beef in Stout, in Ireland, go great with an oh, I don’t know, Irish Stout? All I have to say to that is, I’m creating this travel fantasy so there will most certainly be French wine. Besides, a good French red goes with everything. Everything. And there are currently no invading Norman hordes, so we’re good.

Oh, and Belgian chocolate, that’s on the tray too. It also goes with everything. Truly.

And who is that second glass of fragrant red wine for?

Well, in my case, it is for my sweet, handsome husband who just came in from 36 straight holes of golf. Who did you think it was for?

Interestingly enough, I am picturing him in traditional Irish golf attire …

I think it goes without saying, this is not one of my original photos, but I'll put it out there - just for the record.

I think it goes without saying, this is not one of my original photos, but I will put the disclaimer out there anyway – just for the record.

Just. Like. That.

No, I’m not poking fun. He could totally pull off the look. And besides, you don’t make it to seventeen years of marriage if you can’t laugh at each other together.

Incidentally, I am also picturing him preferring to have an Irish Stout with his stew. And darn it, he is just too full for Belgian chocolates. But what to do with that second glass of wine? Good thing I’m on vacation.

Yes, that was a lot of set up for a Beef in Stout recipe. The laundry I have to do, dishes waiting in the sink and errands I need to run may have something to do with my need for Calgonesque travel fantasies.

Poof. Back to reality. At least there’s still the stew. And Calgon.

Beef in Stout with Herb Dumplings

from Irish Pub Cooking, Parragon Books, serves 6

Ingredients

Stew

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 carrots, sliced
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 lb braising beef cut into cubes, I used chuck
  • generous 1 3/4 cups stout
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Herb Dumplings

  • generous 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded suet – I know, use butter
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
  • about 4 Tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the oil in an oven-proof cast iron casserole (like Le Creuset). Add the onions and carrots and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened.

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Meanwhile, place the flour in a plastic bag and season well with salt and pepper.

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Add the beef to the bag, close the top, and shake well to coat. Do this in batches.

Remove the vegetables from the casserole with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the beef to the casserole, in batches, and cook, stirring frequently, until browned all over.

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Return all the meat and the onions and carrots to the casserole and sprinkle in any remaining seasoned flour. Pour in the stout.

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Add the sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook in the preheated oven for 1 3/4 hours.

To make the herb dumplings, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter and stir in the parsley and add enough of the water to make a soft dough. Shape into small balls between the palms of your hands. Add to the casserole and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

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Remove and discard the bay leaves and serve, sprinkled with parsley.

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I have yet to visit Ireland and I gave up wine for Lent (well the second half of Lent anyway) but even so, I got to enjoy this wonderful stew with my sweet, handsome husband and the three little people who make reality (laundry, dishes and errands included) far better than any fantasy escape to a distant land could ever be.

Now where’s that Calgon.

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!

Wicked … I mean, Fancy Mac and Cheese

She seems like such a nice woman.

Friendly, genuine, approachable.

She’s a loving wife and a great mom. A good friend.

She is kind to animals and loves dogs and horses.

She openly shares her life and her recipes.

My kind of girl.

But this, this is just too much …

She calls it “Fancy Mac and Cheese”. It sounds sweet and safe and wholesome.

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It is not.

A few Saturday’s back, I watched her make it. Smiling innocently, sweetly, looking fabulous.

After the episode ended, I pulled out her cookbook to look “Fancy Mac and Cheese” up for myself.

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Surely my eyes had deceived me. I must have imagined it. Five kinds of cheese, carmelized onions, bacon, roasted mushrooms, bechamel. It couldn’t be. No one has the nerve for such a thing.

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But there it was. In print, before my eyes. Undeniable. In all its sinful, gooey, calorically off the charts glory.

Fancy. Fancy, nothing – this stuff is WICKED.

“Wicked Mac and Cheese”

When faced with such obvious decadence, what’s a girl to do? A disciplined girl would close the cookbook, back away and make a salad.

What did I do? I made Fancy Mac and Cheese.

That is my confession … I made Fancy Mac and Cheese. I MADE FANCY MAC AND CHEESE!

And then I ate Fancy Mac and Cheese, just a little bit but I still ate it. I ATE FANCY MAC AND CHEESE!

All I can say is … Holy it was worth it Batman!

If you are up for five straight hours on a treadmill, followed by a Jillian Michaels DVD, and far too many burpies, push-ups and mountain climbers, then you are a better woman than I and are safe to click the link below for the recipe …

The Pioneer Woman’s Fancy Mac and Cheese

Five kinds of cheese, nope I wasn’t kidding; gruyere, fontina, parmesan, gorgonzola and a nice hunk of goat cheese. I know. Just wait, It gets even better/worse.

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There’s Bacon.

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And carmelized onions. I’ll give you one guess as to what they were carmelized in.

Yup. And butter too.

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And roasted mushrooms.

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Next, the cheese sauce – a bechamel with the gruyere, fontina, parmesan and goat cheese.

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Pretty much the perfect cheese sauce for macaroni.

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Now the layering begins …

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first onions

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then the cheesy macaroni …

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next the mushrooms, gorgonzola and bacon and then repeat the layers.

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Bake for 20 minutes – just enough time to run a few laps around the back yard – and …

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There it is, maybe the most decadent savory treat ever created.

I served it with a big green salad. You know, to make myself feel better.

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And I shared – to spoil a friend, minimize leftovers and make myself feel better.

There, I have confessed.

If you need to make a Fancy Mac and Cheese confession, I am here for you. I understand.

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.

Family Dinner Favorite: Taco Soup

Installment #3 in the Family Dinner Favorites category comes from my little sister, Rachel and is pretty new to my family but is an absolute favorite of hers; and she has some P.I.C.K.Y. eaters. I’m not sure how this recipe came to her originally, but I am sure glad it did.

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Taco Soup is a cross between a soup and a chili or a “Stoup” as Rachael Ray would call it – oh wait, that is stew and soup. Oh well, you get the idea. However you want to classify it, the great thing about this quick, simple and nutritious dinner (actually, those are all pretty great things) is that the most difficult thing about it is opening the cans. Low fat and packed with fiber (lots of beans) and the kids will love it. You can’t go wrong.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • 2 pounds of lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Can Corn
  • 1 Can  Creamed Corn
  • 1 Can Pinto Beans
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes (or Rotel with Green Chilies)
  • 2 Packages Taco Seasoning
  • 1 Package Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
  • 1 Can Whole Black Olives, drained (Optional but Awesome)

One of the really cool things about this recipe is that the liquid from the corn, tomatoes and beans is what makes the liquid in the soup. No additional water or stock.

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It is also a great “kids in the kitchen” recipe – they LOVE dumping the cans into the pot. And, if you are weird like us, while you chop the onions you can have a who can stand the onion fumes the longest contest with your eight year old. He won. I was cryin’ like a baby.

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Now that the onion contest is over, brown them with the ground beef.

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Have your helper start dumping in the canned ingredients and stir until combined.

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Add the taco seasoning packets and the ranch dressing packet (I know it sounds strange, but somehow it works).

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Give it a good stir and simmer for at least 20 minutes to heat through and give the flavors a little time to develop.

Serve with corn tortilla chips and your favorite toppings:

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Topping Ideas:

  • Sour Cream
  • Avocado Chunks
  • Grated Cheese
  • Sliced Green Onions
  • Jalapeno Pepper Rings
  • Pico de gallo or chopped tomatoes

That’s it. This is also a great crock-pot meal. Brown your meat and onions and the put it all together in the crock-pot – everything but the black olives that is – and let it simmer on low for 6-8 hours; add in the olives, sprinkle with your favorite toppings and have a little mid-week fiesta!Taco-Soup-15

Family Dinner Favorite: Chili Stacks

Installment #2 of Family Dinner Favorites – and believe me, this one is a F.A.V.O.R.I.T.E. !!

Chili Stacks

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My mom made this dish all the time when I was a kid and now my kids love it too! Okay, Nathan doesn’t love it but Nathan is, well, Nathan and he’s five and refuses even to try it because there is not a noodle with “white sauce”, meatball or hot dog anywhere to be found. Let me just tell you, he is missing out.

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Corn tortillas and cheese, not a bad start, right? Oh, it gets better!

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See, I told you. Here’s how to make ’em …

Ingredients for one stack (my advice, double it and make two)

  • 5 corn tortillas
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 – 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 – 15 ounce can small red kidney beans
  • 1 Cup grated cheddar cheese (a guideline really, you’ll need to grate more)

Directions

Brown ground beef, onion and salt. Drain fat. Add chili powder, oregano, basil, tomato sauce and kidney beans. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes.

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Now you are ready to start stacking. Start with a little bit of chili and then place one corn tortilla in a baking dish, or two if you are doubling the recipe – you really should double the recipe.

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 and top with a little of the chili and cheese and just keep stacking.

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Be sure to finish with cheese.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Admittedly, not the prettiest dish ever but just you wait!

Cut each stack in quarters – one stack should feed four …

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but these are REALLY good so … make two stacks!

I like to serve Chili Stacks with a big green salad and Mexican style corn. Enjoy!