What I do while I figure out what to do next . . .

Archive for the tag “dinner”

The BEST Orzo Pasta Salad

This is my absolute go to recipe for summer!  And since Memorial Day is coming up this weekend – I am off to the store to buy the ingredients for my first summer BBQ!.  I got this fabulous and EASY Orzo & Spinach Pasta Salad recipe at the request of my daughter –
Simply chop all items and put into large serving bow.

Simply chop all items and put into large serving bowl.

(who by the way doesn’t like 1/2 the ingredients on their own) – but loves how they all work together here.  So thank you to my good friend Jill for graciously sharing her recipe with me.  Hope it’s as big a hit at your house as it is at ours.

1 lb cooked and cooled orzo
3/4 lb crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup diced sun dried tomatoes (drained and blotted dry)
1 small can sliced black olives (either sliced or chopped)
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 TBS balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients, pour on dressing and
Sooo yummy!!!

Sooo yummy!!!

Lemon Vermouth Chicken

This is a fabulous tasting, easy chicken dinner that you can make with items that are already on hand in your pantry.  And by fabulous I mean I have 100% success rate with my entire family (pretty much that never happens). So to celebrate my awesomeness I have now made this twice in the last month.  First time I followed the directions entirely and bought chicken breasts and pounded them to an even thickness.  The second time I bought pre-sliced chicken cutlets.  The cutlets made the preparation so fast and also cooked much much quicker. Bonus in my house!

adapted from my much loved Williams-Sonoma Chicken cookbook)


  • 2 whole chicken breasts (4 breasts)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 4 fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)


The recipe calls for you to halve, skin and debone the chicken breasts.  I have done that before.  I really have no need to do it again.  I am perfectly happy buying boneless skinless chicken breasts.  I don’t feel like less of a mother (I don’t care if it makes me less of a cook apparently).

Before you start, turn oven on to warm and place oven safe serving platter inside.

Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of waxed paper and pound gently to an even thickness

Mix the flour and sage together in a flat bottomed bowl (I used ground sage the first time and dried the second.  Both work)

Dredge chicken breasts in flour/sage mixture and shake off excess.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.

Add chicken breasts and saute, turning as the become golden 2-3 minutes each side.
(the larger breasts took longer – my cutlets were 1-2 minutes each side)

Transfer to a warmed platter to keep warm while you deglaze the pan.

Add vermouth and bring to a boil over high heat.  Deglaze by loosing any browned bits and continue to stir until reduced by 1/2. 2-3 minutes.

Add lemon juice and season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour sauce over chicken and sprinkle with lemon zest and basil.



You should make this tonight!

It’s pouring down rain here — it’s not really miserable and cold, but it cries out for comfort food tonight.  Of course tonight I have to pick up my short child early from school to take to a lesson and then race home and supervise homework and then the short child also has jazz at dinner time (yes, this is all due to poor planning on my part)  that ends at exactly the same time I am supposed to show up looking all clean and shiny for parents night at her school.  Oh, and somewhere in between all that I need to make dinner for 6 people.  Can you say “crock-pot”???  By the way I own a crock-pot cookbook – I won’t make 95% of the recipes in it because either they have steps like browning and adding ingredients 1/2 hour before serving or they are based around cream of mushroom soup – seriously YUCK!

This is 2 steps.  Put in ingredients and shred.  That’s it.  And it tastes awesome and it keeps well and you can serve it as leftovers if you need to.  It is also immensely adjustable to feed the size crowd you need.

RECIPE Shredded BBQ Chicken on Ciabatta Rolls:

  • 5-6 boneless breasts of chicken (this is totally flexible – I have 7 in tonight because they looked small)
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing
  • 1/4 light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce (your choice – I like Bulls Eye Original because it doesn’t have High Fructose Corn Syrup or ingredients I cannot pronounce)

And that’s it.  Seriously.  Dump it all in.  Mix it around if you feel the need to create more steps. Turn it on and forget about it.  I have it on low for the next 8 hours.  It would be fine in 6.  I have cranked it up to high and had it ready in 4 hours.

Because you should make this tonight I am posting this now with just the in process picture.  I have no idea if it will be possible to grab a final product pic with my night tonight but I will try 🙂

When you are ready to eat take 2 forks and shred the meat.  This will take longer than you think it should.  But it’s not remotely complicated.  Tonight I will either do it in advance of Jazz class and set crock-pot to warm for 1 hour or I will have my big girls shred it while I am gone so it is ready to eat when I roll in on 2 wheels and toss the short child out the window on my way to parents night.

I buy nice buns — Ciabatta Rolls – not hamburger buns for this.  It does make a difference – my kids voted.


I am a Salmon Goddess!

I am. I really am.  And I don’t even eat salmon. EVER.  I think it’s gross. I only (very recently) even started eating white flaky (non fishy) fish and that was only because my husband’s boss served it for dinner.  And you can’t really go, “ick” and refuse to eat fish at the bosses house.  But somewhere along the line between I DON’T EAT FISH and now when I tried it again, it turned out my taste buds have changed and I actually like it.  I even purposely order it on the menu even when there are other things I like too.  Shocker!

So here it is summertime and I am looking for new recipes to try.  Around this time my husband has also decided to be not only dairy intolerant but also iffy on the whole pasta thing.  JOY!  Enter Salmon.  It’s healthy.  My husband likes it.  My children have never even tried it so they don’t know whether or not they hate it yet.  Plus it’s pink and summer looking.  Why not?

That’s how I ended up standing clueless at the fish counter one afternoon at 5pm.  There were two kinds of salmon.  Alaskan Sockeye wild salmon which was bright red on sale for 9.99 lb (regularly 19.99 lb) and a lighter pink farm raised salmon that said “dye added”  also for 9.99 lb.  Luckily, there was a super cool “I know about food” guy standing right in front of me who was ordering the sockeye – so I hit him up for the scoop.  Already, I don’t like the idea of dye added to a food I am buying to be healthy, and as a self respecting woman, I am almost honor bound to buy the more expensive salmon on sale.  Plus, cool guy sealed the deal when he said the wild salmon is much for flavorful and firm.   I did a little more research when I got home.  In addition to having no color added, wild salmon is less fatty, has more omega 3’s and protein than farm raised salmon.  Also farm raised salmon has more toxins and is given antibiotics to ward off disease from being raised in close confines.  Honestly, if wild salmon isn’t on sale, just save up your $$ and eat it less often rather than ever going for the farm raised.

So, having gotten the nod and the wink from super cool food guy. I head home with my purchase to experiment.  I read a couple of recipes, but it is already getting late and I really need to just get going already so I minimize to GREAT SUCCESS!  I’m serious.  Salmon Goddess.

INGREDIENTS (to serve 6)

  • 2 lbs wild sockeye salmon
  • 1/4 cup mounded light brown sugar
  • 3 TBS creamy country Dijon mustard
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.


Preheat broiler

Place salmon on tin foil lined rimmed baking sheet.  This is REALLY REALLY important.  When you see the after picture you will understand why.

Lightly score salmon along serving lines and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Mix together country Dijon and brown sugar into a glaze. I used a creamy country Dijon – so with the mustard seeds, but also with a nice texture.

Completely cover salmon with glaze.  I needed to let the salmon sit with the glaze for a while because my dear husband did not in fact leave the office when he said he would.  The glaze runs all over, so I would reapply as much as necessary before popping under broiler.

Broil 10 minutes – do you see what I mean about the tin foil being vital!  I think without it, I would have just had to throw the pan away.

Serve immediately.  We also had a jasmine rice, some crusty bread and grilled asparagus to go along with the salmon.  Did I mention I ate it too!  Seriously, awesome.  Even for me.  Everyone liked it (well boy child ate it but, really, as we know, only really loves tacos, spaghetti and meatballs and the like – I think he might have said meeh in a sort of positive tone – which I took as a success from him)





Tomato, Cucumber and Feta Summer Salad

It is one of those too hot to eat days and this salad is just perfect for days like today.  I saw the picture this morning on Pinterest and I just had to whip it up.  I didn’t even need to go to the grocery store because the ingredients are all my favorites and I had them either in the house or growing in the garden.  It was just that easy!  Well, I did have to go outside into the smoldering heat and climb up a slight incline to said garden to pick the basil (which is thriving despite being planted WAY too close to a sprawling pumpkin vine).  FINE, my husband was right.  I over-planted again, but I just cannot bring myself to thin out plants that have sprung up from tiny seeds – it just seems too mean.   Anyway, back to the salad. . . I halved the recipe this time because it will not keep without getting mushy.  Also, I’m probably the only member of my family who could live on cucumbers and tomatoes. So plan accordingly.  You can make ahead, but do not add in the dressing until 1/2 before you want to eat.  You can eat right away (I did) but the flavors will keep developing if you give it a little time.

Adapted from a recipe from Local Kitchen


  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1/4 shredded basil
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

Quarter cherry tomatoes and add to a large bowl

Dice cucumber and add to tomatoes

Yes, you are correct.  That is NOT  1/2 a red onion.  My house ATE my 1/2 a red onion.  Instead I found 1/2 a large shallot.  It worked.  It was fine. But you should use 1/2 a red onion instead.

Now add the 1/2 cup of crumbled Feta cheese.  I really like this picture.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s the heat and I’m just easily impressed.

Finally add the shredded basil and toss to combine.  I tried to have my son take a picture of me shredding basil, but he’s too short.  You just saw forearm.  See below.



So You will just have to use your imagination and know that I once I was done taking pictures with my right hand, I went back to two-handed shredding 🙂

To a small bowl add red wine vinegar, EVOO, sugar, sea salt and pepper and whisk until emulsified.

Drizzle dressing over salad.

Toss and you can either eat right away or  let it sit for 1/2 an hour for flavors to develop.

And I was wrong about this salad only appealing to me (in my family).  My short child proclaimed that not only did she like it.  She LOVED IT! But that may be because she doesn’t have a Prada backpack 🙂


Pacific Pork Kebabs with Pineapple Rice

I know I have made this before.  When I started the recipe I had that deja vu feeling all over again 🙂 But there were zero stains on the page in the magazine and we all know that just doesn’t happen in my world of cooking.  And it was from an Everyday Food Magazine from 2007 so pretty likely that it made it into the rotation sometime in the past.  Maybe it is just really, really similar to a recipe I know I like, but as it was quite popular with my kids especially – it will definitely be on the make again list.  Plus it looks gorgeous and is super simple to make.  For me, I think the kebabs need more oomph, and I’m not really sure why.  Maybe the pork was not that flavorful, but in my (admittedly cloudy) memory this was a very flavorful kebab – so do bare that in mind as you season – more is more . . . UPDATE: See below reviews for update – I have tweaked the recipe slightly (admittedly by accident) and it is just awesome and full of flavor 🙂


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice (I used Jasmati Rice)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 8oz. can pineapple chunks in juice
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pork tenderloin (1 lb)
  • 2 medium bells peppers
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger
  • 1 lime


Cook rice according to package directions.

Preheat grill to medium and lightly oil grates (I used Pam for grilling)

In a small bowl, whisk honey and 2 tablespoons pineapple juice together and season with salt and pepper.

Cut pork tenderloin and red bell peppers into 1 1/2 inch pieces and thread onto skewers.  I used 4 large metal skewers and removed onto serving dish for dinner.  You can alternatively use individual skewers.  If you use wooden, remember to soak 15 minutes before use so they don’t burn up on grill.

Season with salt and pepper and grill and baste frequently.  

While pork is cooking, coarsely chop pineapple chunks, slice scallions and grate ginger.

Add to rice and stir.

Grill until pork is completely cooked through 10-15 minutes and peppers are beginning to char.

Serve with lime wedges.

REVIEW:  As written this recipe should serve 4.  For my family of 6 I used 2lbs of pork and 1 1/2 cups of rice, but kept everything else the same.  It took the full 15 minutes for my pork to cook, but definitely keep an eye on it as you baste so it doesn’t dry out.  As I mentioned before, definitely feel free to be liberal with your seasonings because although the kids inhaled it, I think adults would have appreciated a bit more kick.  But, it is gorgeous to present and incredibly easy and I would feel good serving it to either family or guests.  Add a side salad and crusty bread to round out the meal and it just screams summer nights to me.


UPDATE:  I have now perfected this! Last time I was at the store I couldn’t remember exactly what I needed so came home with a fresh pineapple instead of canned (as the recipe is written) so I cut up the pineapple and because I had so much I threaded the fresh pineapple on the skewers along with the pork and red peppers and OH MY GOD IT WAS JUST AWESOME!!! I’m not kidding.  I’m never making it the other way again.  The sweet grilled pineapple is such a perfect accompaniment to the pork and red peppers.  Just loved it.



Chili Rubbed Flank Steak

While I am all about trying out new recipes, sometimes, even I need a standby.  This is it.  I made it for the first time maybe 5 years ago at the beach.  But it is an all-seasons meal.  It is just as perfect on a chilly night as it is on an outdoor deck.  I took pictures with the random sides that I did this time (what was in the cupboard) but it goes with absolutely anything.  You can even slice it up and toss it on a salad the next day (if there is any left over).


  1. 1.5 lbs flank steak (I use up to 2lbs without changing anything)
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  4. 1 tablespoon sugar
  5. 1 teaspon kosher salt


Preheat broiler to Hi.

I now use a real broiler pan, but have also made it without problem on a flat rimmed cookie sheet (without problem means the pan warped, but the meat was fine anyway – and the pan returned to normal when it cooled.)

Rub both side of flank steak with olive oil.

Mix together dry ingredients and rub into meat.  The first time I just sort of put it on top – but my brother said with any rub you should really work it in and let it sit as long as possible.  So that’s what I shoot for.  But I also just rub it in and pop it under the broiler right away when I have to.

Broil without turning 10-12 minutes – 4 inches from the heating element.  I have tried this on the grill – didn’t work.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes so that juices can collect.

Slice on the bias (very thin – 45 degree angle). If you have a rimmed cutting board all the better, because there is a fair amount of juice that you don’t want to lose – or clean up off your counters.

This time I served with crusty bread, thin green beans (boiled in salted water for 5 minutes) and buttered egg noodles for a kid and family friendly weekend dinner.



Stir-Fry Chicken with Ginger

I have very warm thoughts about this cookbook. Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Chicken.  And it’s not so much about the recipes, although I have had great success with many of them.  It is because once, a very long time ago, my non-cooking husband went to Williams-Sonoma in NYC, on purpose and not being dragged by any woman.  He bought this cookbook and the special tools he needed for his recipe and came home to his heavily pregnant, stuck on bedrest for 12 weeks wife, and cooked her “real food” from a cookbook, with special tools and multiple ingredients.  And if I didn’t know it before, I did then, he was a keeper.

Picture from book

I have included both pictures from the real cookbook and my own and I want to point out a couple of notable differences.  In my defense, I was on the phone the entire time I was making this recipe with a survey taker, so was not as focused as I usually try to be.  That said – it really does speak to the ease of this recipe that you can make it and be distracted at the same time.  So in the real picture the green onions are sliced lengthwise and they are much prettier than my small rounds — I wasn’t paying enough attention when I was cutting.  Also, the real picture has  a lovely brown color to the sauce and chicken that I do not have either.  I’m not sure why.  I used a dark sesame oil, so perhaps it was the store-bought chicken stock.  The cookbook suggests that you make your own — I beg to differ on a weeknight.  Plus I’m not someone who just has that lying around.  Perhaps I should; I also know I never will.


  • 2 whole chicken breasts (that means 4 individual)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 green (spring) onions, including tender green tops, thinly sliced (here is where I stopped reading) lengthwise and then cut crosswide into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger for garnish


They say to halve, skin, and bone the chicken breasts as directed on page 10-11.  I say buy boneless skinless chicken breasts – duh!  Place the breasts between 2 sheets of waxed paper and, using a rolling pin, flatten them slightly and evenly.  I used a kitchen mallet and pounded them with great satisfaction whenever the survey taker paused for a breath.

Place chicken between 2 pieces of waxed paper.

Place chicken between 2 pieces of waxed paper

Cut the halves lengthwise into strips 1 inch wide.

Cut the halves lengthwise into strips

Warm the oil in a large saute pan or wok over medium heat.

Warm sesame oil and garlic over medium heat

Add the garlic and chicken and saute the chicken, turning the pieces as them become golden, about 1 mintue on each side.

Saute chicken 1-2 minutes per side until golden

Stir in the green onions, fresh ginger and pepper flakes and saute for 1-2 minutes.

Stir in onions, ginger and red pepper flakes

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Deglaze the pan by stirring to dislodge any browned bits, then reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the garlic and discard.  (Maybe I wasn’t paying attention again, but my garlic had been minced through a garlic press (my fabulous and awesome Pampered Chef garlic press that is totally worth going to a party for) and not left whole – so therefore could not be removed – seems silly anyway)

Transfer the chicken and onions to a warmed platter. Pour sauce over the top.  Garnish with the crystalized ginger.

Stir-Fry Chicken with Ginger

Serves 3-4


I served this over a Jasmine rice and it was a huge success with everyone!  However, since everyone really liked it, it was not remotely enough food.  So next time I will definitely double the recipe.  The boy child (who is arguably my pickiest eater) found the crystalized ginger “too spicy” and requested that next time I add the garnish after I serve his plate. Easy fix and he did eat his entire serving and look around for more.  The other kids were sneaking in the pantry and shot-gunning the ginger – so there is no accounting for taste bud differences.  I think this might be good with some Nan and a green salad and carrot ginger dressing – unless it becomes ginger overload — something to try next time – not that I have that recipe, but something to look for.   Hubby got home late and ate it cold, thought it would have been better hot, but was afraid to nuke it in case it messed up the flavors -which he liked.






Chicken & Black Bean Mexican Casserole

Chicken and Black Bean Mexican Casserole

I apparently have an issue with focus.  And while I LOVE CAKE and I have baked and decorated my fair share; I HAVE TO cook dinner every night and so decided to write about our hits and misses.  So check out the new What’s For Dinner page for more ideas. . .  I chose to blog about this recipe first because an ungodly number of people repinned it after I pinned it a couple of days ago.  I have to say the picture really sold me, plus I can assemble it ahead of time and pop it in the oven later and that makes it hugely convenient in my life.

RECIPE: adapted from All Recipes 

Chicken and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

  • 2 cups diced or shredded chicken breast meat I didn’t measure just diced up 2 large uncooked chicken breasts
  • 3/4  teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (4.5 oz) can diced green chili peppers, drained
  • 1 (10 oz) can red medium enchilada sauce
  • 8-10 (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 (8 oz) container sour cream

Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and spray with vegetable cooking spray. Sauté chicken with cumin, coriander and garlic powder until chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the cilantro, black beans and green chili peppers.

Spread half of the enchilada sauce over the bottom of an 11×7 inch baking dish (this seems like an odd sized dish – and I have a ridiculous amount of random baking dishes at my disposal.  So I used 9×13 and it was fine – I think it would have been fine with smaller too – just taller)  that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Place 4-5 tortillas over the sauce, cutting in half and overlapping overlapping if necessary. Spoon half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas, and sprinkle with half of the cheese and half of the sour cream.

Spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the cheese, and make another layer of tortillas. Layer the remaining chicken mixture over the tortillas. STOP/

Cover dish with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven.

Remove the cover, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and dot with sour cream. Continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese melts. (I must have misread these directions because I put back in for another 15 – and it worked well)


So this recipe could not be simpler.  And, as I expected, it comes together in advance and you can pop it right in the oven.  A lot of times what kills me trying to pull a dinner together is not the actual cooking time, but the prep that sends me over the edge.  I used to think I was a process person.  And if I’m not under the gun to GET DINNER ON THE TABLE BECAUSE WE HAVE TO EAT IN A 15 MINUTE WINDOW BEFORE SOMEONE HAS TO LEAVE FOR BALLET, BASEBALL, SOCCER, RIDING . . . you get the idea, then I might enjoy the process again.  But right now the process I enjoy is simple.

I have 4 kids.  Ages 13, 13, 9 and 7.  They all like Mexican food.  Hubby is fine with Mexican food – well he likes Margaritas anyway.  He’s not a huge fan of beans – the short child doesn’t eat re-fried beans but I “thought” she was not opposed to beans out of hand – she happily eats chili.  ANYWAY.  I managed to get it on the table hot for hubby, 13 and 7.  Other 13 year old had dance and had to eat it reheated afterwards, 9 year old spiked a fever and needed to go to urgent care.  And I ate A LOT of the peanut butter cake we made this weekend and am therefore fasting for the next 2 weeks :-).

Both 13 year olds thought that it was awesome and want it again.  9 year old who was supposed to have only chicken noodle soup requested to try it and thought it was “not too bad” and I got “a verbal” that he would eat it again.  Hubby thought it was too bland and mushy (he does have texture issues though . . .) and he reported that the 7 year old said “it’s not her style”. (EDIT – I remade tonight and the now 8 year old ate it happily.  I also altered the original amounts of spices to kick up the flavor for DH – changes are now in the ingredients.)

We have a rule in this family.  I will not purposefully cook something I don’t think you will like.  You do have to try it. You don’t have to like it, but please refrain from going into excessive detail about how disgusting you find it. And most importantly of all – Don’t make the cook cry!  “It’s not my style replaced the ubiquitous “it’s spicy” as the euphemism of choice for, “I don’t like it – but I don’t want you to feel bad and cry”.  It works.

So, with a success rate of 2/3rds – because I actually did taste it and liked the beans – it’s a keeper.  I do have 100% hit rate on some things – but I can’t have that be my benchmark because then we would never eat anything except spaghetti and meatballs (and not even homemade ones – they like the ones from the bag . . . gasp!)

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