Tag Archives: dinner

The Best Burger

14 Jul

Dan and I love entertaining especially over the summer when the BBQ is involved. Last weekend we had my sister and cousins and their kids over for dinner. When planning my grocery list and menu I decided that although all the kids are under 10 and we were making easy peasy burgers and dogs I would get some more adult toppings for our burgers. I decided on caramelized onions, balsamic roasted Roma tomatoes and arugula. The result? Totally delish! 

My Gourmet Backyard Burgers

Here’s what I did:

Dan seasoned the burger patties with Meat Magic spices and made a well with him thumb and filled the well with Worcestershire sauce. 

I took 5 Roma tomatoes and sliced them in half lengthwise, I placed them in a baking dish and sprinkled them with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, then drizzled it with about three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and then about a tablespoon and a half of balsamic vinegar. I roasted the tomatoes in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, flipped them, then another 35-40 minutes. I then squished them lightly with the back of a wooden spoon to just break their form.

I caramelized the onions by slicing some sweet yellow onions thinly, adding them to a pan heated with olive oil. I added salt lightly and about two-three tablespoons of white sugar. I carefully made sure to move the onions around the pan so they wouldn’t burn. I cooked them over medium low heat until they turned golden brown. 

I then build the burgers. With mild cheddar cheese, the tomatoes, onions and arugula on a sweet roll. There  was no need for any sauces because the meat and toppings were all so flavorful and juicy. So excellent! 


Making The Most Of It

24 Oct

As the holidays approach I have been paying a little more attention to how much I’m spending and on what. One area that I know we have an issue with over spending is definitely on food. I’ve been making an effort to be smarter about menu planning over the weekend as well as making dinners that will stretch into two nights or I can take leftovers for lunch the next day.
While I was making my delicious lasagna soup I realized that my package of Italian turkey sausage was going to make much more than I needed, but I didn’t know how long I could store it before it would go bad. I decided to brown it up (breaking it up with a spoon) in a small frying pan with just olive oil over medium heat. I also only had four more lasagna noodles left in my package after I was done with the soup and felt silly about storing just a couple so I boiled them according to the package. I had extra mozzarella cheese from the soup, extra ‘everything’ veggie pasta sauce (which I always do because I have a difficult time figuring out portions for only two people). I happened to have ricotta cheese which I had planned to use in another recipe later but I only needed a little. I checked out Pinterest for the layering and storage and decided that it would be quite delish to make lasagna roll ups for a later date. It was so easy, allowed me to use the leftover ingredients I had from my original meal, and make a great pop-in-the-oven meal for another day.

Lasagna Roll Ups
4 Lasagna noodles cooked per package instructions
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Italian turkey sausage casings removed, crumbled and cooked
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup tomato pasta sauce
Take this noodle by noodle. Place noodle on a surface that it can lie flat.

Spoon and spread ricotta evenly over noodle.

Spoon sausage crumbles even over ricotta.

Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over meat and cheese.

Spoon pasta sauce over cheese and meat.

Roll noodle and stuffing up ‘jelly roll’ style.

Repeat with all other noodles.

Top all with sauce and more mozzarella cheese.

I decided to freeze mine for later but you can either heat these in the microwave for a minute on high or in the oven at 350 for 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and the rolls are heated through. If frozen, they should be fully defrosted before reheating.
I like roll ups because you can make less than a full pan if you desire and even though you use your hands it’s less messy than a traditional lasagna.

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf

16 Oct

So here’s the deal, meat loaf can be kinda gross. I was never a fan, like at all, when I was growing up. It just seemed like a mutant blob of blah. However, I can say that today I feel differently because of my BBQ Turkey Meatloaf. It’s super tasty, flavorful, tender, and saves easily for left overs- what’s not to like?
This recipe came about actually after an epic fail of trying to make a more traditional beef meatloaf. I won’t go into what exactly happened but I believe the words: cardboard and bland may have been thrown around and I do recall my husband politely choking it down. I don’t usually take epic failures lying down. I just had to redeem myself! And I did just that with this recipe.

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf
1 lb ground turkey meat
1 teaspoon meat magic seasoning (chef Paul Prudhomme)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 egg lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce
1 clove garlic crushed
1/2 medium yellow onion finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
1 medium zucchini finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs









Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix BBQ sauce, meat magic seasoning, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and egg in a medium bowl. In a sauce pan heat olive oil over medium and heat, sauté vegetables with salt and pepper until tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a couple minutes. Add vegetables to wet mix and combine. Place ground turkey in a large bowl and pour wet mix over meat, add bread crumbs and mix with your hands. Separate into four equal sections and shape into oblong ovals on a non stick sprayed glass baking dish(es), not touching. Top all loaves with additional BBQ sauce. Bake for 30 minutes, add more BBQ sauce to the top of loaves, continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until cooked through.

I decided to make mine with my very favorite new mashed potato recipe by the Pioneer Woman- I honestly cannot get enough, and frankly what’s better with meatloaf than mashed potatoes?!

I love this meatloaf because it’s so full of flavor, it’s moist, and frankly delicious!

Spicy Cowboy Taco Bowls

14 Oct

My husband and I were away at a wedding this weekend so we scheduled Monday off so we could spend sometime with Maddie. It was nice to have a four day weekend before reentering reality tomorrow. When I took some chicken breasts out to thaw my husband immediately said, “ooh, I want to smoke that”.
I had gotten my husband a smoker for Father’s Day so he could make smoked tritip, his culinary pride and joy. This was his second attempt at chicken breasts and it turned out great. He put it in at 225 degrees until the internal temperature is 160 degrees and then he tented it for 10-15 minutes before shredding.

Once Dan finished the chicken we had to decide what to make with it, we’ve done BBQ shredded chicken sandwiches before but I was in the mood for something with a little more excitement going on. I’ve made the rice component of this dish many times in its own (a tasty vegetarian dish) or with some garlic shrimp, so I thought it would be a great combo with the chicken.

Spicy Cowboy Taco Bowls

1 can Rotel diced tomato and green chilies
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup white rice
1& 2/3 cups water
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 smoked chicken breasts shredded
1/2 BBQ sauce
Avocado diced
Cheddar cheese shredded
Sour cream
Diced onions
Corn tortillas

Combine Rotel, drained and rinsed black beans, garlic, cumin, and chili powder in a medium pot. Bring mixture just to a boil, add rice. Cover and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. In a separate frying pan, add cooked shredded chicken and heat over medium high heat add BBQ sauce and combine (about 2-3 minutes). Serve chicken over rice and add toppings, serve with warmed tortillas.
I love this! The rice is spicy and is balanced perfectly with the BBQ sauce’s sweetness. The smokey flavor adds a lot to this tex mex style dish.









After dinner I made probably the most fun ever fall apple dessert: caramel apple cider cookies (recipe via: the cooking photographer). They have big flavor, the perfect amount of sweetness, they really are the baked equivalent of apple cider. LOVE!




Working It Out Work With Weeknight Dinners

28 Sep

Most mornings at work my coworkers and I discuss our previous evening’s activities, sometime they went to yoga, sometimes they have grad school classes, sometimes they have activities with their kids, and sometimes the evening consists of a dinner success or epic failure. Most of my coworkers are surprised by the meals that I make mid week and feel like they don’t have time to put things like that together. Granted there are times that I make the decision to eat later just so I can make something extra special (like earlier this week with my Savory Braised Beef Short Ribs) or I may bake late into the evening so that Madeline can have muffins in the morning or I can bring something sweet to Treat Friday (the best day of the week) at work, but most of the time I try to make dinner as quickly as possible.

Here are some things that help to make making dinner easier but still delicious, nutritious, and simple.

As Sandra Lee (from Sandra’s Money Saving Meals & Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sandra Lee) always says: take a little help from the store. I did this last night by roasting some asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, making a package of Alessi’s Portobello Mushroom Risotto (once boiling takes 21 minutes), and sauteing shrimp in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper (approximately 6-8 minutes). The whole meal was done in about 30 minutes and it was delicious. It made the perfect amount for just my husband and I.

Other ways to get help from the store is to use rotisserie chicken, I often get these to use in Chicken Tortilla Soup, by skipping the cooking of the chicken it cuts the prep time down significantly. I will use the chicken for salads, white chicken chili (pictured), in pasta or just by itself with a couple sides (i.e. roasted vegetables, rice, sauteed spinach, Nana’s homemade stuffing, etc).

I made this chili with rotisserie chicken chopped up, 1 can of chili beans, 1 can of white beans, 1 can of rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies, 1/2 cup frozen corn, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and topped it with lots of shredded cheddar cheese.

Another way help that I get from the store is always buying shredded cheese, when I am making anything from my favorite enchilada stacks to lasagna and homemade pizza- it helps to save time by not having to shred and shred (or clean your food processor, which for me is a huge chore). I know it may be a little more expensive to buy the shredded stuff but if when I am weighing my time versus a couple cents to a dollar, I’m going to go with saving time.

Stocking my pantry with things like canned beans for the many chili’s I make, dry pasta which holds up forever and cooks quickly, chicken, beef, and vegetable stocks for soups, white and brown rice, different kinds of canned tomatoes (whole, diced, paste, sauce, with herbs, with chilies) etc. help when you are out of ideas but need to produce some sort of dinner. Keeping key items on hand in the fridge like a jar of crushed garlic, onions, soy sauce, different kinds of shredded cheese, eggs, hot sauce, and frozen items like raw deveined shrimp, frozen corn, frozen turkey meatballs, frozen mixed veggies, etc. really help in a pinch.

Other things that help make week night dinners a success are: planning the meals you want to make over the weekend and shopping for all ingredients you need (so as not to be caught without a key item in the 11th hour), reading recipes thoroughly to know all the steps and be prepared to multitask when necessary. I usually take all the ingredients and bakeware/cookware out prior to beginning so that I’m not running back and forth in my kitchen the whole time to get things I need. I was also taught to clean up as I go so I usually try to put mixing bowls or ingredients I’m done with away in between steps, that way I’m not facing a seemingly insurmountable mess once dinner hits the table.
These are some of the things that I do to be able to put down the takeout menu and instead use my creativity to come up with delicious and quick midweek dinners that make my family happy.

Savory Braised Beef Short Ribs

23 Sep

It’s been an interesting day… we’ll leave it at that. Interesting days require something extra ordinary for dinner, again what I call- cooking therapy. Tonight it’s braising therapy… I’m willing to wait a little longer to eat tonight if it means delicious braised beef short ribs, and I bet you would too!

Savory Braised Beef Short Ribs
Braised short ribs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Kosher salt n ground black pepper
1.5-2 lb short ribs, boneless
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 carrots, peeled cut into large chunks
1 onion cut into large chunks
3 stalks celery cut into large chunks
2 cups beef broth
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red wine (I used merlot)
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 cup V8 juice
1 bay leaf
1 pinch crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat large pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. In a medium bowl combine flour with salt and pepper and toss short ribs to coat, shake to dust off excess flour. Transfer ribs to the pan to brown on all sides (about 5 minutes).



Layer vegetable on bottom of a large heavy bottom pot/Dutch oven, arrange browned short ribs. Add remaining ingredients and an extra couple dashes of ground black pepper and salt.





Cover and transfer to oven, cook for 1 hour and then reduce heat to 365 and cook until fork tender for about another hour and a half to two hours.

Once out of the oven remove meat and vegetables from liquid and place on a platter, reduce liquid over medium high heat for approximately 10 minutes (may need to add some gravy flour to help thicken). Serve gravy over meat and vegetables. I served mine with buttered egg noodles.


I am in love with this recipe, I could seriously drink this sauce, it’s that good! I think it’s going on my list of favorites.

My braising adventure also left me with plenty of time to browse my old holiday magazines.


And… since it’s been an ‘interesting day’ I finished it off with sharing a happy little chocolate bundt cake from Corner Bakery with my hubby. Corner Bakery is currently participating in No Kid Hungry‘s fundraising campaign too, so double points for them!


Summer Chicken & Veggie Pasta

23 Sep

I have been trying to be better about buying more ingredients and scratch cooking more days a week then eating out- a very bad habit that my husband and I used to fall into regularly in our last home. We lived around a lot more restaurants and there was this magical app called Grub Hub which we could order food from restaurants via our phones, it became too convenient. When we moved I had a bigger kitchen, more time (due to a commute cut in half), and less access to not only restaurants that deliver- but also just the plethora of options for dining out. So when I go to the grocery store and have load up my cart with more vegetables and fresh foods than packaged items I feel pretty good.

What I do need to get better at doing is going through my pantry and fridge, making a list of those things I need, AND planning meals for the week before heading to the grocery store. I got one request from my husband while we were in the store and that was my Summer Chicken and Veggie Pasta. This is an easy pasta that can be made quickly and ingredients can be interchanged easily for whatever you like. I used chicken breast that my husband grills with broccoli, carrots, onion, zucchini, green beans, and peas (which I forgot to add). I typically marinate my chicken breast with Italian dressing for about 20-30 minutes before grilling it, however I ran out of dressing so I made a simple mix of 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic, dash of salt, dash of pepper, 1 crushed clove of garlic which I placed in a Tupperware with chicken and the lid on and shook to combine. The marinating helps to add subtle flavor to the chicken and makes it very tender and juicy. I let the chicken breast rest for about 5 minutes before slicing it for the pasta.

Summer Chicken & Veggie Pasta: serving size 2

1 grilled marinated chicken breast sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small head broccoli trimmed up and chopped
2 carrots peeled and chopped
1 zucchini quartered and chopped
1/2 yellow onion chopped
handful of green beans trimmed
1 clove garlic crushed
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white wine
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper
2 servings cooked pasta (rotini, penne, rigatoni, etc)

Heat a medium to large pan to medium heat and add olive oil till warmed, add the broccoli, carrots, onions, and green beans to the pan, saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat (reduce if onions begin to brown). Add salt, black and crushed red pepper. Add garlic and zucchini and saute until tender. When pasta is finishing up add wine and butter to the vegetables and heat through. Once pasta is drained drizzle lightly with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). Serve vegetables over pasta and add the sliced chicken to the top.

If using frozen peas add approximately 4-5 minutes before the end of cooking so they are heated through.




This is a great light dish if you are looking for something with a nice fresh taste with simple ingredients and especially if you don’t have much time. It’s one my of my husband’s favorite dinners.