Posts Tagged ‘dinner’


December 16, 2017

So with working full time my dinner mojo is often missing. It seems our weekly menu consist of the same types of items – burger night, pasta night, protein night, taco night, pizza night and more of the same. I wanted to freshen things up and keep my passion for cooking alive, so I found a remedy. I look at my Food Network magazine’s “weeknight dinners” every week to add a new recipe to the mix. I am really enjoying this inspiration. I look forward to a new issue each month. In the past I have struck out with new recipes but lately I have been on a roll. I have made four new dinners, one each week, that have been home runs. It spices up our weeks as it adds something new to the mix. Each of these four recipes were a huge hit with my family. They were all easy to make and quick after a long day. I hope you try them and make your families tummies happy!

Chicken with gnocchi

This recipe was so delectable and using store bought gnocchi on a work night made my life easy. It had the perfect balance of protein and veggies. I made this with the perfect side -homemade Olive Garden breadsticks which were so fluffy and better than the real thing.

Tortellini Stroganoff

All the great flavors of stroganoff were there and this was simple to make. I added some stir fry beef for protein.

Orzo with mushroom

My family was skeptical with the spinach and leeks, but they tore it up, due to the creamy sauce and the chicken breast I added. Campy said: “it was on point!”

Flank and mac

As you can see a theme here, protein, carb, and veggie. I try not to make carb heavy dinners but this trifecta pleases the little people. Flank steak was too pricey so I used another affordable cut. The idea here is the flavors, add your own twists.

That’s what I love about these Food Network recipes, you can add your own ideas. Also if the magazine subscription is too much, get your issues from the library like me, and then google the recipe name and they come up on their website. Also these are all great vegetarian recipes too. Manga!

Lemony Terrific Chicken

November 11, 2014


I have always been a fan of cutlet themed dinners. From Marsala to Parm to Milanese, a cutlet dinner can be satisfying and simple. I usually make my Aunt’s go to Lemon Chicken recipe loaded with heavenly mushrooms. Recently I decided to change it up after seeing the Barefoot Contessa make her version. Ina is a talented chef and I have tried many of her recipes before. Yes she is a bit fancy pants but that doesn’t deter me from trying her decadent takes on dishes. Lemoore is nothing like the Hamptons, believe me, but making her recipes takes me outside of my little world. This lemon chicken was amazingly juicy and delicious. The combination of olive oil and wine with just the right herbs and fresh lemon made chicken sing with flavor. So if you want to make a simple dish that makes you feel fancy for a moment, check out this version of Lemon Chicken and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Lemon Chicken

1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6 to 8 ounces each)
1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Read more at:

Who’s coming to Sunday Dinner?

June 10, 2013

I love trying new recipes, especially when I don’t plan to. I asked my hubby to pick up a pot roast at the grocery store, if you haven’t checked it out yet, try my amazing pot roast recipe I posted on here. I am very thankful when he does the grocery shopping for me so I don’t complain when he doesn’t get the exact item on my list. He brought home a beef bottom round roast so I typed that into google and viola, I found a Sunday roast beef dinner. I had always wanted to make a Sunday roast and never knew what cut of meat you needed to do that, I assumed it was some pricey sort of prime rib or something, but the bottom round roast was just as affordable as the pot roast I had put on the list. By the way, for pot roast you usually use a chuck roast. I was pretty sure the leaner and tougher bottom round roast would not turn into a tender pot roast, so I am glad I found the recipe below. My Sunday roast turned out amazing, as did my gravy, which I have never had success with before. The marinating before baking with the worcestershire sauce and also the rub really made the flavors sing. Also I made it with some homemade whipped mashed potatoes, the perfect accompaniment. So if you are planning a tasty Sunday dinner, check out my recipe and enjoy!

Sunday Roast Beef with Pan Gravy

Roast Beef:

  • 1 (4-to-5-pound) Boneless Beef Bottom Round Roast Or Rump Roast
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon(s) Powdered Garlic
  • 1 teaspoon(s) Onion Powder
  • 1 teaspoon(s) Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon(s) (plus 1/4 teaspoon) Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon(s) Coarse Salt

Pan Gravy:

  • 3 tablespoon(s) All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cup(s) Beef Broth


  1. Prepare the Roast: Adjust the rack to the bottom of the oven and heat to 425 degrees F. Blot any excess moisture from the roast, rub the Worcestershire sauce over the entire roast, and allow to marinate for 30 minutes, turning it twice.
  2. Combine the powdered garlic, onion powder, paprika, and 1 tablespoon coarse-ground pepper in a small bowl; sprinkle the seasoning mixture evenly over the roast, pressing it, and let the roast stand for 20 to 30 minutes. Rub the meat with 2 teaspoons salt, place fat side up in a shallow roasting pan, and roast for 15 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and continue to roast until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F — about 2 hours. Let the roast stand for 20 minutes before slicing.
  4. Prepare the Gravy: Skim any fat from the liquid that remains in the roasting pan. Whisk the flour and 1/2 cup water together to a paste; set aside.
  5. Scrape the drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan, add the beef broth, and stir over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer. While continuously whisking, add the flour paste and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. If needed, add a little water to thin the gravy. Add remaining salt and pepper; serve warm.


Gnocchi di’ Melanzane – Eggplant Gnocchi

April 8, 2013


I love my usual go to gnocchi recipe I posted before but tonight I decided to branch out and challenge myself and make some eggplant gnocchi aka Gnocchi di’ Melanzane.  The secret is you puree roasted eggplant and put it in your gnocchi dough. The best part was that my kids ate it and I got eggplant into their tummies! I topped it with my favorite sauce, my leftover cacciatore sauce. After you make a big pot of cacciatore there is always leftover sauce.

According to my research, gnocchi are little dumplings that can be varied by adding cheese, vegetables, herbs, or even fruit to the basic dough. Just look for whatever is in season and blend it into the dough for a special treat.

This gnocchi was relatively easy to make. I loved the technique of piping the gnocchi out of a pastry bag and cutting them with pastry scissors, this was much easier than hand rolling them.  I would say if I made them again I would probably add a bit more flour to make the dough a little thicker, as it did not hold together as well as usual gnocchi dough does, but it still came out good. So if you want to add an extra Italian flavor to your gnocchi, try this eggplant version

Gnocchi di’ Melanzane – Eggplant Gnocchi

2 pounds of firm eggplant

coarse salt

olive oil

1 pound of Idaho potatoes

1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan or romano (I prefer)

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 teaspoons of salt

1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

12 leaves of fresh basil, minced

2 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, halve eggplant lengthwise and brush olive oil on, then put cut side down on foil lined baking sheet and bake about 40 mins, till tender (or less if you are using several small eggplants). While eggplant is cooking boil potatoes in salted water for about 30 mins till tender. When it is cool enough to handle peel eggplant and puree in food processor. Allow puree to cool completely. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and use potato ricer to squeeze them into a large bowl. Add the eggplant puree and the cheese and mix well. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, and basil and mix to blend. Add flour and mix to incorporate, but do not overmix.


Bring large pot of salted water, about 6-8qts, to boil. Fill pastry bag with eggplant mixture and when the water boils, pipe 1/2 inch long pieces, cutting using pastry scissors, dropping them into the boiling water. Work rapidly until all the dough is used up. Allow gnocchi to cook until they float to top and then drain on a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Butter lightly and keep warm. Top with your favorite pesto, alfredo (my pistachio alfredo would be great), red sauce and freshly grated cheese and manga!

A great fresh tomato sauce from scratch is featured here, by one of my cooking idols, Lidia Bastianich

Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie

March 27, 2013


I have never been a fan of chicken pot pie, something about the soupiness of it and the pie crust just didn’t equal delicious to me. But both my dad and hubby love pot pie. After a recent trip out to eat where Campy had a KW version of pot pie that was actually pretty scrumptious I was inspired to overcome my aversion.

Well whose recipes usually convert me over to a believer? That would be my lovah, Alton Brown. Hold up, Alton Brown you say? Ok so he may not been oozing with dancing with the stars sexiness but his recipes are technical and my perfect go to for any accurate version of your favorite dish. I found his chicken pot pie and of course he one upped it by not making a pie crust, but using biscuits! Think what it would be like if chicken and dumplings and chicken pot pie had a baby.

To me this was the perfect compromise, as I love biscuits and even though I am not a casserole fan, the biscuits distracted me enough to indlulge. Even my picky kiddos dug right in. Some tips: the cheese in the biscuits made them even more tasty and the shredded rotisserie chicken was nice and tender, instead of the usual dry chicken pot pie meat. My mom wasn’t a fan of the chicken sausage, next time I would probably use just regular sausage. Are you wondering why I put sausage in a “pot pie” – well, think biscuits and gravy, mmmm! So if you want to make a relatively simple version of chicken pot pie even more delicious you should check this recipe out – click the link or see below

Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie – Courtesy of Alton Brown & FN

1 pound bulk-style chicken sausage
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 pounds shredded, cooked chicken, about 5 cups
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Biscuit Topping:
12 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
1 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar
4 ounces unsalted butter, frozen
7 ounces low-fat buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
For the filling: Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Crumble the chicken sausage in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the butter and melt, stirring to coat the sausage. Sprinkle the flour onto the sausage and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the milk and chicken broth and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, salt, sage, and pepper. Stir to combine and set aside while preparing the biscuits.

For the biscuits: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, thyme, sage, and cayenne pepper in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Grate the cheese and butter using the large shredding disk of a food processor or the large side of a box grater. Immediately add the cheese and butter to the flour mixture. Stir to combine. Pour in the buttermilk and stir just to combine. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and start folding the dough over on itself, gently kneading for 30 seconds, or until the dough is soft and smooth. Press the dough into a 1/2-inch thick round. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut out the biscuits, being sure to push the cutter straight down through the dough to the work surface. Make your cuts as close together as possible to limit waste. Gather together any remaining dough, pat out again, and cut out as many biscuits as you can in order to get 9 total.

To build the pie: Set the biscuits on top of the filling, placing 8 around the edge of the pan and 1 in the middle. Bake until the biscuits are tall and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: I did not have a large enough skillet so I used a 9×13 pan and I just used scraps of biscuit dough to fill in spaces between round biscuits

Key West Fish Tacos & Slaw

October 24, 2012

Living on the ocean has its perks. Fishing off our back deck happens to be one of them. Not only is it a great hobby for my hubby and our girls but we catch some pretty tasty fish, mainly mangrove and yellowtail snapper. At one point I was getting tired of fish and chips so I decided to make up a new recipe for our daily deck catch. My mom had given me this batter recipe for the fish and I combined a few great slaw recipes I read into a delicious dinner. The fish batter was like nothing I have ever been able to create at home, it was amazing! The beer really adds a great flavor to the batter and it helps the fish fry up so nice and crisp. Throw it on some warm tortillas and add your favorite taco toppings and you have a great summer feast.

English Pub Style Fish Beer Batter

BEER or CLUB SODA (ENOUGH TO MAKE THICK BATTER) – I used almost a full bottle of Blue Moon


Tara’s Special Slaw

Take cabbage, fresh cilantro, red onion, green onion, sliced thinly, tossed with about 1/2 cup or more of mayo and fresh squeezed lime juice (to taste, I used 1 lime), a tiny bit of chopped canned jalepenos and garlic, to taste, and viola – homemade slaw that is the perfect companion for this fish. Modify as you like using purple cabbage, carrots, no peppers, more or less cilantro or onions, and top tacos with avocado and tomatoes too if you like.

oh and don’t laugh at my crappy pic above, I scarfed down 2 tacos and took a pic of half of one that was left, before I ate it all!

Triple D King Ranch Casserole

September 20, 2012

I have few talents in general but my best one is my ability to watch a cooking show and write down the steps and ingredients and re-create the recipe. I love doing this and the feeling of success when a dish comes out just right. I think my hubby is pretty lucky as most guys probably watch Diners Drive-Ins and Dives and drool over the delicious recipes shown with no hope of ever tasting them. But my hubby saw a recent recipe and told me he wanted me to make what he saw and I accepted his challenge. My hubby loves most things I cook and I make a lot of the same staples over and over. But when he tells me that he wants to “crawl into a vat of casserole and live in there, it was so good” I know I hit the nail on the head.

The episode of Triple D was in Texas and Matthew McConaughey joined Guy for their taste testing. The diner made a King Ranch Casserole which is a traditional Texas dish and it looked amazing. I tried to google “king ranch casserole” and there was no shortage of recipes to pop up. But none of the recipes I found had the steps or ingredients I saw on Food Network, so instead I watched the episode on Food Network as a guide. Many people got close with their versions but a can of cream of mushroom soup and cream of chicken soup? Come on, it is not hard to make a roux and use fresh stock and mushrooms. Don’t be fooled by imitations, this is the closest version! Here is the recipe I invented:

Triple D King Ranch Casserole

Ingredients (guesstimated measurements I eyeballed my version):

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion chopped

1 large green bell pepper chopped

2 small stalks of celery chopped

6 cloves of garlic minced

6 oz of button mushrooms chopped

1/4 or 1/3 cup of white wine

a couple teaspoons of kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 tsp or more of black pepper, or more if you like

1 tablespoon of cumin, or more if you like

1 tablespoon of chili powder, or more if you like

1 can of Rotel tomatoes with chiles

about 1/3 cup of flour, enough to make a roux

2 cups of chicken stock

about 1/2 cup of whole milk or half and half

corn or flour tortillas, about 1 dozen, I used flour

a block of monterey cheese

a block of cheddar cheese

a whole rotisserie chicken from the deli, dark and light meat removed and shredded (I bought the “smokehouse bbq” flavor and it was perfect)


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Get a large casserole dish or 9×13 pan out. Start by heating your vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Then saute your onions, pepper and celery till translucent. Add your minced garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add your mushrooms and cook through, I added a bit more veg oil to help the mushrooms cook. Deglaze your pan with the white wine and cook veggies in wine till mostly absorbed. Add salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and Rotel with chiles and mix together, let cook for a minute.

Then add your flour to make a roux. Whisk flour in slowly till the veggies and flour form almost a gravy, dough or a thick paste like concoction. After it has thickened add the chicken stock and whisk to get the roux to loosen up and combine with the stock. Once it has loosened into sort of a soup, add the half and half or milk and whisk. Cook over medium/low heat for a few minutes to bring all elements together and reduce to thicken into a nice sauce.

Take off heat and put a few spoonfuls of sauce in bottom of casserole dish so tortillas won’t stick. Then put down a layer of tortillas, 1/3 of shredded chicken and 1/4 of shredded cheeses, topped with dots of the sauce sort of spread out over it. Then repeat layers 2 more times, so there are 3 layers of yumminess total. Top with additional layer of tortillas, sauce and then cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or so uncovered and keep an eye on it, mine was done at about 35 mins in my oven. Slice in to this puppy and enjoy the best dish my husband says I have made in a long time. It is sort of like a mexican lasagna or enchilada casserole and you won’t be disappointed!

Meat + Potatoes = <3, the perfect equation

August 28, 2012

Who doesn’t love good old meat an potatoes? Typically this makes you think of steak and a baked potato or meatloaf and mashed potatoes but I took it in another direction. I am all about one pot wonders – dinners that can be made on your stovetop and save you time and dishes. As I mentioned previously, I love my Quick from Scratch Italian cookbook. I had the recipe page for Sausage, Potatoes and Artichokes dog eared for some time now, and I decided to give it a try. Boy am I glad I did as it was delicious and a big hit with the whole family.

The italian sausage flavors the potatoes with such a great taste and the wine really added to the tomato rich broth. The artichokes hearts are also a nice surprise to bite into, as they are one of my favorite ingredients for anything from pasta dishes, to pizza to my favorite artichoke and mushroom bruschetta (will have to post that one). Thyme pairs so well with potatoes, I love it in my grilled potato with olive oil, dijon and vidalia recipe, So if you want a quick and easy dinner that will win you major points with your meat and potatoes eater, check this pot of love out!

Sausages, Potatoes and Artichokes in a Tomato Broth

  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 1 1/2 pounds mild Italian sausages
  3. 3 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
  4. 1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes (about 5), cut into 1-inch chunks
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  6. 1/3 cup dry white wine
  7. 1 1/4 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  8. 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  9. 1 1/2 cups drained and rinsed halved canned artichoke hearts (one 14-ounce can)
  10. 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  11. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  12. 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  1. In a large stainless-steel pot, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the sausages and brown well, about 10 minutes. Remove. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, leave that in the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat to moderate. Add the garlic, potatoes, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and boil until reduced to approximately 3 tablespoons, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, the salt, and the sausages. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and the pepper.
Substitutes:• Rosemary for the thyme

• Red wine for the white wine

• Hot Italian sausage for the mild

– Mushrooms for the artichokes

Birthday feast for Nonna

January 30, 2012

I love an occasion to cook for. Cooking is my way of showing love for someone I care about. Its not so much the foods I make as much as it is the preparation or love that goes into the meal. I would rather spend all day making something from scratch for someone than taking them to a restaurant chain. My mom’s birthday was yesterday. For her present she requested a favorite meal of ours. My mom is the reason I cook, because she always taught me so many things in the kitchen. I love seeing her with the girls today teaching them the love of cooking. For her dinner she requested Penne with Crabcake pasta from the restaurant we had our wedding rehearsal dinner at. I always loved that entree so I recreated it at home till I got it right. It is extremely simple yet it plates and tastes like 5 stars. Then because my mom has a sweet tooth I made her a delectable chocolate cake. Who doesn’t want to try a new chocolate cake recipe? So here we go:

Crabcake Penne with Spinach and Sundried tomatoes

This recipe is one I made up to duplicate the dish we always enjoyed at one of our favorite NC places, Amos Mosquitos cafe. First I cook some garlic, about 6-8 cloves, roughly chopped in butter. Then I toss spinach in the butter and cover it to wilt, you don’t want it to cook too long. Then I add a about 3/4 jar of chopped sundried tomatoes in olive oil and I add some of the oil from the jar as well. I cook some penne till it is al dente and then I toss it in the saute pan with the spinach. I serve a bowl of this lovely pasta concoction with a crabcake sitting on top and some aioli on the crabcake. Sometimes I make my own crabcakes from scratch but lately I have been using Maryland Lump crabcakes from the freezer section. The crabcake is so happy to be sitting in this pasta nest. Aioli is what really adds the zing to this dish. For my aioli I use garlic, mayo, chipolte peppers in adobo sauce, dijon mustard, and white wine vinegar. I got the recipe from Food a while ago but I have since added to it. This dish has such few simple ingredients but it is really pleasing to the eye and the palate. It really makes a date night in look extra fancy.

For dessert we had the Buttermilk Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing, pictured above. No matter how little time I have I just can’t use a store bought or boxed cake, as the ones from scratch taste so much better. I have made this recipe for so many special occasions before. It is so moist and light and fluffy. I have really never tasted a cake like it. In fact I think I am going to go taste some right now…


Polenta Virgin

January 21, 2012

So I am a polenta virgin. I am not ashamed to admit it. I just have never tried it, for some reason it has never appealed to me. Polenta is a very finely ground version of corn grits and if you cook it very slowly to get it creamy. It is often served with tomato and mozzarella or even chilled and sliced into circles for fancy appetizers. I see it on all different calibers of cooking shows and I am usually the first to try to make something if it is more challenging, but yet I have not tried it.

The other day on The Chew, Mario made Polenta with shrimp (shrimp are gamberoni in Italian) and he enticed me. So I bought some polenta and shrimp and I was ready to try it out. Following Mario’s directions were easy and the step by step video helped make my first time making polenta easier. I had seen other chefs use fresh herbs as skewers before in other recipes so I was excited to try this with the shrimp. Remember it has to marinate for 3 hours so plan ahead. Grilling the shrimp on the rosemary skewer really adds delicious flavor, I might use this idea for summer cookouts. Make sure not to grill it too long, you don’t want your shrimp tough, but tender and succulent.

When I made the polenta I made sure to pour it slowly and whisk as pouring, to me it was just like making cream of wheat, which I make often for breakfast, so it was easier than I expected. I got it to be just the right texture and then I scooped it out and served the freshly grilled shrimp on top. It was amazing! I am really glad I took the plunge. I can’t wait to try it chilled as a sort of cracker to serve a yummy appetizer on. I also am excited to try some other recipes, my friend said that she had polenta fries with gorgonzola dip at a restaurant, I want to find the recipe to make that too. So if you have not tried polenta but are feeling the urge, don’t be scared and you won’t be disappointed! Oh and please excuse the photo I snagged from the Chew site, I gobbled up my dinner so fast and forgot to snap a pic for my fans…