Monthly Archives: August 2008

Zucchini with Parmesan

zucchiniSometimes it’s fun to make extravagant, complex dishes that involve lots of steps, lots of preparation, and lots of fun and flair. Today was not one of those days. Does that mean dinner should be any less yummy? I should say not! This recipe is a great way to do something simple and easy. It took me about 25 minutes from start to finish to make these zucchini. Great to serve up alongside some chicken breasts or pork chops, or even a pasta dish.


2-3 zucchini, washed and sliced on the diagonal into ½ inch thick slices

2-3 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T chopped fresh basil (you can substitute parsley as well, if you wish)

Salt and pepper

A pinch of dried red chile flakes

2-3 T grated parmesan



Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place slices of zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet or a 13X9 baking dish. Brush slices with olive oil. Spread garlic and basil over the zucchini, making sure you cover each slice. Season the slices with salt, pepper, and dried chile flakes. Sprinkle parmesan over slices. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until slices can be pierced easily with a fork, but are not mushy. Turn the broiler on high, and let the slices broil for a few minutes, until the cheese just begins to brown.


Serves 4.


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Filed under Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Side Dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Thai Curry Chicken Stir-fry

Here I am again, experimenting with asian food. This is not an authentic Thai recipe, but the flavors used are common in a lot of Thai cooking. Don’t be overwhelmed by the long list of ingredients, once you get started, everything cooks fairly quickly.  Once served, Sriracha (an asian hot chili sauce) is a great condiment if you like extra heat.

2 c chicken broth

1 T coarsely chopped cilantro stems

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 T minced ginger

2-3 star anise


1 jasmine rice

1 ½ c water

½ t salt


1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into thin slices

1 t thai red curry paste (you can find this in the asian section of many supermarkets)

1 T peanut oil

1 T minced shallots

1 T minced garlic (1-2 cloves)

1 T minced ginger

3-4 thai bird chiles or 1 serrano chile, minced

4-5 shitake mushrooms, sliced

4 heads baby bok choy, chopped

1 t cornstarch

1 t soy sauce

1 T fish sauce

½ t brown sugar

1 lime

½ c chopped cilantro

6-8 basil leaves, chopped (preferably thai basil)


In a small saucepan, heat broth, cilantro stems, garlic, ginger, and star anise to boil, reduce to simmer. Let simmer 15-20 minutes, and strain using a fine-meshed sieve. Keep warm.


Heat water and salt in a medium saucepan to boiling, add rice. Stir, reduce heat to low and cover, cook for 15 minutes.


Mix thai red curry paste with chicken, set aside.


Heat a large skillet or wok to medium high heat. Add peanut oil, heat until shimmering. Add shallot, garlic, ginger, and thai chiles to skillet, cook for 2-3 minutes or until beginning to color and soften. Add chicken, and cook until chicken is just opaque, 3-4 minutes more. Add mushrooms and bok choy, stir to ensure even cooking. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. In a small bowl, whisk 1 c chicken broth with cornstarch. Add chicken broth mixture, soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar to skillet and stir. Turn temperature to low, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding chicken broth if sauce is too thick. Squeeze lime juice into sauce.


Serve rice with stir-fry, and sprinkle cilantro and basil on top.

Serves 4.


Filed under Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Main Dishes, Rice

Macaroni Pasta with Ground Turkey

macaroni pasta with ground turkeyEveryone should have an easy-to-make, low-cost meal in their back pocket. This recipe is simply that. Its total comfort food for me (aka high in carbs). It’s easy to make (my 13-year-old stepson helped!), and a kid favorite (that same 13-year-old ate two huge platefuls!). I also used it as a spaghetti sauce the other day, so it’s versatile. Substitute the ground turkey for ground beef if you’d prefer.

1 lb pasta (macaroni, spiral, or even spaghetti pasta)

1 lb ground turkey

2 T olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ c chopped onion

½ t fresh thyme

½ t red pepper flakes

2 t Italian seasoning

½ t anchovy paste

½ t Worcestershire sauce

2-3 c chicken broth

2 t fresh basil, chopped

2 cans tomato paste

1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes

¼ c chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Salt and pepper

Grated parmesan cheese


Heat a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta to the pot, leave uncovered, cooking as directed on package (usually 7-10 minutes). Drain pasta.


Meanwhile, set a large skillet to medium heat. Add 1 T olive oil, heat until shimmering. Add onions, cook 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic, thyme, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes, cook until garlic is soft, 2-3 minutes more. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.


Add 1 T olive oil to skillet. Heat for a minute, and add ground turkey. Salt and pepper to taste. Brown turkey, stirring to break it up. Once turkey is browned, add anchovy paste and Worcestershire sauce, stir. Add cooked onion mixture, canned tomatoes and cans of tomato paste. Add chicken broth and stir to combine. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Add basil and stir. Adjust seasonings as necessary.


Add pasta to sauce, stir to combine. Sprinkle parsley over top of pasta, if using. Serve with plenty of parmesan cheese and garlic bread.


**note – You can also put the cooked onion mixture and the canned tomatoes in the food processor or blender and blend until smooth. My family prefers “unchunky” tomato sauce, so I tend to do it this way. Simply add this new tomato sauce at the same time as you would add the canned tomatoes.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Pasta

Saffron Veggie Rice

I dislike a lot of the boxed rice dishes they sell at the stores, most are loaded with salt. This is a tasty alternative, and is easy to make. This is wonderful with baked chicken.

2 cups steamed rice (al dente)

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 T butter

1 T olive oil

1 t saffron water (see note)

1 carrot, minced

2 t garlic powder

1 t onion powder

2-3 T minced fresh parsley

1 c chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat saucepan to medium heat. Melt butter and olive oil in saucepan. Add carrot, cook until softened. (4-5 minutes) Add garlic powder and onion powder, stir. Add cream of chicken soup and half of chicken broth, stir. Turn heat to low. Add rice and stir. (Add more chicken broth as necessary to achieve smooth texture, you don’t want the rice to be dry or sticky.) Add parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and warm rice through.


Note: saffron water can be made by steeping a few threads of saffron in a few tablespoons of water. This leftover water can be frozen for future use, and will stretch the use of the saffron, which is quite expensive in stores.

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Filed under Quick and Easy, Rice, Side Dishes

Insalata Caprese

This recipe calls for the freshest of ingredients. If you have a farmer’s market in your area, I suggest visiting to pick up some wonderful fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. The tomatoes sold at the regular grocery stores are tasteless in comparison. There is nothing more wonderful than the simple combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella, and this simple salad combines those beautiful flavors and presents beautifully. Excellent as a first course for a summery Italian dinner.

5 tomatoes

½ lb fresh mozzarella balls

½ bunch fresh basil leaves

3 T extra virgin olive oil

4 t lemon juice

2 t Chardonnay

½ T parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste


Slice tomatoes thickly, about ½ inch thick. Drain fresh mozzarella and slice into rounds. Wash and dry basil leaves gently so they don’t bruise. Alternating layers, arrange tomatoes, basil, and cheese on a plate. Place lemon juice and wine in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle desired amount over tomatoes and cheese. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.


(serves six)

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Salads, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Sauteed Patty-Pan Squash

Rarely can you find patty-pan (aka scalloped) squash in the grocery store. However, many farmer’s markets have them. In Texas, it seems that every farmer’s market is overflowing with squash come June.  However, if you can’t find them, any summer squash will do. I also have made this recipe using yellow squash and zucchini and it was quite delicious. The freshness of the ingredients scream “summer.”

4-5 medium patty pan squash, sliced ½ inch thick

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

½ medium sweet yellow onion (preferably Vidalia or Texas 1015), sliced thinly

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

¼ c chopped fresh parsley

1 T chopped fresh basil

Dash lemon pepper

½ T grated Parmesan

½ lemon’s worth of juice

1 ½ c fresh spinach leaves, packed (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste



Heat pan to medium high, add oil and butter. Once butter is melted and foaming, add onions. Cook until onions are beginning to become tender and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, and squash. Season squash with lemon pepper. Sauté until squash can be pierced with a fork, 5-6 minutes. (don’t overcook, or squash will become mushy) Add parsley, basil, and spinach, if using. Sauté until spinach wilts, about a minute. Squeeze lemon juice over squash, and sprinkle Parmesan over. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Side Dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Orange Fennel Salad

A wonderful, fresh, summery dish, and very easy to make. I’m relatively new to fennel, but this recipe definitely highlights the wonderful, licorice-y flavor and compliments it well with the citrus. This would be a great choice to accompany a fish or chicken dish.


1 bag baby spinach

2 navel oranges, sectioned (use a bowl to catch the juice)

½ fennel bulb, sliced thinly (if you have fronds from the fennel, chop a teaspoonful)

¼ c sliced roasted almonds or walnuts

1 T chopped mint


3 T olive oil

The juice from sectioning the oranges, plus a little orange juice if needed

½ t cumin

1/2t onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste


Whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, cumin, onion powder, and season.


Mix together salad ingredients, toss with dressing, and serve.


**optional add-ins: red onion, red bell pepper

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Salads, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Shepherd’s Pie (or Cottage Pie)

Shepherd’s Pie is a traditional English dish, and is quite simple. It is essentially minced or ground meat topped with mashed potatoes. The term “shepherd’s pie” usually refers to the use of minced lamb, the term “cottage pie” refers to minced beef. This dish is the ultimate in comfort food, and wonderful on a cold winter’s day. My version is adopted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe, with a few changes. I usually use beef (lamb tends to be pricey), and I use less onions.  I’m also probably a bit heavy-handed with the parmesan, but I can’t help it! If you’ve had shepherd’s pie before that was bland, this one will definitely change your mind. My entire family (my husband and I, and the three kids) devoured a doubled recipe of this dish!

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb minced lean lamb or ground beef
  • ½ of a large onion, finely minced
  • 1 large carrot, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Handful of thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, needles chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 ½ cup chicken stock
  • 2 ¼ lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Parmesan, for grating
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat the oil in a large pan until hot. Season the mince and fry in the oil over moderate to high heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir the onions and carrot into the mince then grate the garlic in as well. Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and herbs and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the red wine and reduce until almost completely evaporated. Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened

3. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain then return to the hot pan over low heat to dry out briefly. Pass them through a potato ricer then beat in the egg yolks and butter, followed by about 2 tbsp grated Parmesan. Check for seasoning

4. Spoon the mince into the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. Using a large spoon, layer the mashed potato generously on top of the mince, starting from the outside and working your way into the middle. Grate some extra Parmesan over and season. Fluff up the mash potato with a fork to make rough peaks. (alternatively, you can put the mash potato into a icing bag and pipe the mash into little “hershey’s kisses-shaped” mounds, which looks pretty) Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.


Filed under Beef, Budget-Friendly, Gluten-Free, Lamb, Main Dishes