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Dine In: Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad


Lemon Orzo Chicken SaladFamily vacation at the beach entails 19 people in one house under one roof for a week. We love it, but let’s face it: even the closest of families can be so confined.

This year at the beach, it’s rained almost every day, further compounding our “togetherness.” We’ve played games, taken a trip to the local aquarium, had a dance off, played hide-and-seek with the kids (which ended badly with a downed shower curtain rod), watched movies and made T-shirts. There have been funny moments, and there have been a few tense moments.

However, there is always harmony during mealtime. Prep time constitutes happy hour. Then, we feed the kids. After the kids are full, they are dispatched to the “kids’ room” for Legos, pool or Toss Across while the adults eat.

The adults have taken to eating on the porch if the weather is conducive. This summer salad has the perfect, beachy flavors. Salty air, optional.

Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
1/4 cup orzo, uncooked
3 cups grilled chicken breast, chopped
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pre-chopped red onion
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
6 Tbs (1 1/2 oz) goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:
Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.

Combine orzo, chicken and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.

Combine vinegar, oil, salt and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 274, Calories from Fat: 71, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 96 mg, Sodium: 215 mg, Potassium: 488 mg, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 38 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Produce


Dine In: Dominican Rice and Beans


Dominican Rice and BeansAs often happens when my large, extended family convenes, we do what all families do: give each other a hard time.

This week, while we’re all at the beach together, the “hard time” factor is ratcheted up a notch…or two.

We each take turns making a meal for each other during the vacation week. My sister-in-law, Juli, and brother, Andy, grilled shrimp and beef for tacos or fajitas, and Juli made rice and beans.

“These aren’t Mexican,” my brother, Jim, pointed out as we sat down to eat, completely counterintuitive to the Mexican meal Juli and Andy were trying to prepare.

Jim has spent quite a bit of time in Latin America, unlike the rest of us who rely on Pinterest and the Food Network for our exposure to other cuisines.

Luckily, Andy and Juli have a good sense of humor and the “correction” on the name of their dish was forgotten as soon as it was tasted.

This dish of beans, rice and pork cooked in one pot is indeed Dominican in origin. The “peasant food,” so to speak, is filling, easy to cook and great for a crowd.

Dominican Rice and Beans

Ingredients:
8 oz red kidney beans
1/2 lb smoked ham or bacon (coarsely cut into cubes)
4 cloves garlic (coarsely chopped)
1/2 green bell pepper (coarsely chopped)
3 sprigs cilantro (coarsely chopped)
3 medium onions (coarsely chopped)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato (coarsely chopped)
2 Tbs vinegar
2 cups white rice (well rinsed)

Directions:
Soak beans overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours in a large container with enough water to generously cover. 

Drain water, transfer beans to a large stockpot and cover with 5 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the ham or bacon pieces, partially cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup of water and continue cooking for 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a sofrito. In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, bell pepper, cilantro and half of the onion, and process to a coarse paste.

In a small skillet, heat the oil. Add the sofrito mixture and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, salt, black pepper, tomato, vinegar and remaining onion to the beans, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Do not stir or the mixture will break up and take on a gluey consistency. The dish is done when the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is fluffy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 371, Calories from Fat: 59, Fat: 7 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 16 mg, Sodium: 671 mg, Potassium: 682 mg, Carbohydrates: 62 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 15 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine Alfredo


Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine AlfredoIt’s no secret I love buffalo chicken. Buffalo chicken ANYTHING, that is. I made buffalo chicken breakfast burritos not too long ago. I can trace the affinity to all things spicy back to when I was pregnant with my first son. We’d ordered a pizza one night, and the delivery driver accidentally dropped off chicken bites with buffalo sauce that he claimed he couldn’t take back to the store.

I ate every last one and licked the sauce out of the plastic container. Oh yes, I did.

The love affair is now 13 years in the making and it hasn’t subsided. I don’t think I’ve licked sauce from anything since that moment, but I can’t be certain of that either. Weak moments, you know.

This recipe combines the best of both worlds for me and my kids. They love fettuccine alfredo. I love buffalo. We all win.

Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine Alfredo

Ingredients:
1 lb fettuccine pasta
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb chicken tenders
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs milk
1 1/2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
2 Tbs butter
1 cup half-and-half
3 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bleu cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, combine egg and milk in a bowl. Add bread crumbs to a separate bowl. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dredge chicken in egg mixture, followed by bread crumbs. Cook in skillet until evenly browned, about 6-8 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your chicken. Set chicken aside and keep warm.

Melt butter in the same skillet, slowly pour in half-and-half, and stir in mascarpone cheese until it is fully incorporated. Whisk in parmesan cheese, bleu cheese and buffalo wing sauce. Let sauce cook for 1 minute to thicken.

When pasta is ready, drain and combine with buffalo sauce. Serve with chicken tenders.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 660, Calories from Fat: 245, Fat: 27 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 139 mg, Sodium: 929 mg, Potassium: 294 mg, Carbohydrates: 61 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 40 g.

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Dine In: Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp


Skinny Bang Bang ShrimpThere’s a Chinese food place near my house that has a drive-thru. It also has dinner specials. Furthermore, the food is irresistible. I love it.

I can’t control how their food is cooked, with fats and oils, so I try to recreate some of their specials at home to remove some of the temptation of driving through on a Friday night and plopping on the couch, laden with heavy sauces and too much rice.

This shrimp dish is a copy of one of theirs, removing much of the fat and replacing it with flavorful and healthier options like Greek yogurt.
You can make these on a grill or in the oven.

Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp

Ingredients:
1 lb shrimp (about 50 shrimp), cooked or uncooked, shelled and deveined
10 skewer sticks (optional)
3 Tbs plain Greek yogurt
3 Tbs chopped green onion, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 Tbs sweet chili sauce
1/2-3/4 Tbs sriracha sauce

Directions:
If you’re grilling on a grill, be sure to soak wood skewers for about 30 minutes in cold water so they won’t burn easily.

Combine yogurt, onion, sweet chili sauce and sriracha in a bowl and stir well. Set aside.

Place 5 shrimp on each skewer.

If shrimp are raw, grill on each side for 5-8 minutes, or until opaque and cooked through.

If shrimp are pre-cooked, place shrimp skewers on a baking sheet and bake at 350° F for 5-10 minutes, or grill for about 2 minutes on each side over high, direct heat.

Brush each hot skewer liberally with the sauce on both sides. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 156, Calories from Fat: 17, Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (0.6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 239 mg, Sodium: 367 mg, Potassium: 213 mg, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 27 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Seafood


Dine In: Blackberry Cobbler


Blackberry CobblerLast weekend, my boys and I drove to Pittsburg. Texas, that is. At the peak of blackberry season, there’s an orchard there that allows you to pick your own blackberries. You can eat while you’re picking, but the orchard claims no responsibility for belly aches!

Trust me, it would be easy to eat your body weight in blackberries. When you go out into the orchards, the first thing that hits you is the fresh, bright aroma of the fruit. The trees, during peak season in July, are heavily laden with the succulent berries, almost bowed over from the weight of the fruit.

Blackberries, like blueberries, are natural insect repellants, so there’s no need to spray insecticide in the orchard (thus allowing you to snack and pick!).

We didn’t do a lot of snacking, but we did devour the dessert we made that night with our freshly picked bounty.

Blackberry Cobbler

Ingredients:
4 cups blackberries
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
6 Tbs butter, melted
vanilla ice cream, if desired

Directions:
Heat oven to 375° F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish with shortening or cooking spray. Place blackberries in dish; drizzle with lemon juice.

In a medium bowl, stir egg, sugar and flour until mixture looks like coarse meal. Sprinkle over fruit. Drizzle melted butter over topping.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until topping is lightly browned and filling is bubbly. Cool 10 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 368, Fat: 13 g (8 g Saturated Fat), Sodium: 114 mg, Carbohydrates: 63 g, Fiber: 5 g, Protein: 4 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Oven Baked Feta Cheese Dip


Oven Baked Feta Cheese DipThere are so many Friday nights when, I admit it, I don’t want to cook.

I’m tired from working all week. My kids are tired. We’re all tired.

Sometimes that means pizza. Sometimes that means a snack dinner.

This recipe is simple and quick to put together. You can add chopped, grilled chicken to make it more of a main course.

Oven Baked Feta Cheese Dip

Ingredients:
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:
Preheat oven at 400° F.

In a small oven-safe baking dish, layer the crumbled cheese, covering the entire bottom of the dish.

Sprinkle the minced garlic on top of the feta cheese.

Spoon the tomato sauce, covering the entire cheese and garlic mixture.

Mix together the mozzarella cheese and the cheddar cheese; layer on top of the tomato sauce.

Bake it in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Serve it warm with a side of flatbread or tortilla chips.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 203, Calories from Fat: 137, Fat: 15 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 56 mg, Sodium: 672 mg, Potassium: 110 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 13 g.

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Dine In: Mexican Skillet Lasagna


Mexican Skillet LasagnaWe’ve had an unusually rainy and cooler summer this year, “cooler” being relative of course, so there have been Friday nights that call for a cozy meal inside instead of something grilled outside.

I found this meal on Pinterest. It’s half lasagna, half Mexican and all deliciousness. One of the best parts is that my kids can help make it after I get home from work on Friday night and can’t wait to curl up on the couch with them to watch a movie.

The original recipe called for ground beef, which you can definitely use, but I substituted turkey to make it a bit healthier. I used two jalapeños (because I love spicy), but the recipe calls for just one.

Mexican Skillet Lasagna

Ingredients:
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups red enchilada sauce
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 lb ground turkey
1 can corn, drained
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
10 whole-wheat lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 avocado, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Directions:
Heat oil in a very large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeño. Cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink. Drain fat.

Stir in the corn; season the mixture with cumin, chili powder, oregano and salt.

Scatter pasta onto meat but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juice and enchilada sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Allow the mixture to simmer uncovered for the final 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese. Allow the mixture to stand uncovered for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and mixture is thickened. If desired, you can throw it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown on top. Serve with fresh avocado slices and cilantro.

Serves 6-8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 557, Calories from Fat: 165, Fat: 18 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 68 mg, Sodium: 895 mg, Potassium: 713 mg, Carbohydrates: 66 g, Fiber: 14 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 34 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Fourth of July Strawberries


Fourth Of July StrawberriesMy friend, Amy, is one of those people who makes cute food for her kids.

You know the kind I mean.

Her hot dogs transform into an octopus.

Her sandwiches have cute faces on them with grapes and carrots.

Her cucumber spears are caterpillars and she always, always has celebratory foods for each holiday.

I’m lucky, some holidays, if I get traditional foods on the table, let alone something that screams “festive.”

That is going to change this Fourth of July. Amy sent me a super easy recipe that should have a huge “wow” factor on the picnic table.

It’s so simple that I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it in years past.

I might have to try it at Christmas, too.

Fourth of July Strawberries

Ingredients:
1 pint strawberries, washed and dried
6 oz white chocolate
blue sugar, edible glitter or sprinkles

Directions:
Place blue sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave on 50 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir until the bowl is no longer warm. Then, microwave for 30-second intervals at 50 percent power, stirring after each, until the chocolate is completely melted. Dip the lower two-thirds of the strawberries into the melted white chocolate. Then, dip the lower third of the strawberries in the blue sugar or spoon it onto the strawberries. Place on wax paper until completely cooled.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 203, Calories from Fat: 84, Fat: 9 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 6 mg, Sodium: 26 mg, Potassium: 172 mg, Carbohydrates: 30 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 28 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Produce


Dine In: Greek Cucumber Salad


Greek Cucumber Salad with Lemon and FetaI’ve been craving a good Greek salad for weeks now. My favorite Greek salad comes from a restaurant near my former office. I loved walking down at lunchtime and sitting on the patio with a heaping bowl of greens and feta cheese.

I hadn’t found a good Greek salad in the new city where I work yet, but I had a business lunch scheduled at a bistro near my office last Friday. I had hoped that a Greek salad would be on the menu there. It was!

Now sadly, it was a bit disappointing. The dressing was delicious, but I had to hunt to find cheese (and I LOVE cheese) and the olives were bland. Plus, they used white onions instead of a red one, and that just overwhelmed the salad.

Coincidentally, when I arrived back at work and checked my email, someone had sent me this recipe! I decided that since my Greek salad for lunch was such a disappointment, I’d try again at dinner. It’s the perfect meal for a summer Friday night at home. This salad hit the spot, plus it calls for leaving the feta cheese in a large slab. No missing cheese in this recipe!

The friend who sent me this recipe has a “spiralizer,” one of those new gadgets that you’ve seen everywhere that turn veggies into “noodles.” You can use a food processor or just a really sharp knife, too.

Greek Cucumber Salad with Lemon and Feta

Ingredients:
1/2 seedless English cucumber (about 7 oz)
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup grape tomatoes, halved
5 kalamata olives, pitted
1Tbs red onion, sliced
1/2 fresh lemon
1 oz fresh feta, sliced thick
1/2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, minced

Directions:
“Spiralize” the cucumbers using the chipper blade of a Paderno spiralizer. Cut the strands into smaller pieces, about 5-6 inches long, so it’s easier to eat. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can just dice the cucumbers with a knife into small cubes.

Place the cucumber in a large work bowl along with the bell pepper, tomatoes, olives and red onion. Squeeze half of the lemon over it. Drizzle with half of the olive oil and toss with fresh oregano, salt and pepper. Place on a plate, top with a slice of feta and finish with remaining olive oil.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 225, Fat: 16 g, Carbohydrates: 16 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 7 g, Sugar: 1 g, Sodium: 697.5 mg, Cholesterol: 25 mg.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Bacon Cheese Stuffed Portobellos


Bacon Cheese Stuffed PortobellosI’ve mentioned before that we spend a lot of time sitting on our back porch, especially on weekends. It seems like some of our best family conversations happen on that porch (or in the car, but that’s another post).

On one recent Friday night, my older son asked me, “Mom, what do you want me to be when I grow up?”

I was caught a little off guard, but I answered, “Whatever makes you happy.”

He wanted to know if I wanted him to make a lot of money.

I told him no, I wanted him to do something he was passionate about because if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I forget who said that, but it was someone famous.

He said he’d think about it.

I told him he didn’t have to decide today. He’s only 12, after all.

It did make me think, wondering if I talk too much about money or about how much things cost. When it came down to it, I decided that I didn’t because material objects are not what we value in my family.

Instead, we value things like laughter, going to church together, and cooking and talking on the back porch. To us, that’s priceless.

Bacon Cheese Stuffed Portobellos

Ingredients:
5 slices bacon
6 portobello mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp onion, chopped
3/4 cup shredded Colby jack cheese
parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel. Crumble and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Remove mushroom stems. Set aside caps. Finely chop stems.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook and stir the chopped stems and onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, stir together the mushroom/onion mixture with bacon and 1/2 cup of cheese. Mix well. Spoon into mushroom caps.

Bake at 400° F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Top mushrooms with remaining cheese and sprinkle with parsley.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 376, Calories from Fat: 254, Fat: 28 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (11 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 123 mg, Sodium: 1310 mg, Potassium: 125 mg, Carbohydrates: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 27 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


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