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Catered Brunch for 20

Catered brunch for 20

After request upon request to cater, Denise and I have given in several times in the last few months. It has been fun and a learning experience on what it takes to be a true caterer. As of now, we still don’t think catering, in

Baked Egg Rolls

Pork Egg Rolls

My family loves Chinese food, and who doesn’t love a good egg roll? The only thing I’m not a fan of is that they are fried and greasy. So…I decided to try my hand at baked egg rolls to see how they would taste. Delicious!

Traditional Chili

I have been making this variation one of my aunt’s traditional chili recipes for years. It is always a big hit for family and friends and very easy to make. I have never made it with 9 lbs. of beef before, but I have also

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

When I was trying to figure out what type of vegetarian chili to make for New Year’s Day, none of the recipes I saw completely appealed to me. So what did I do? I combined several recipes and threw in a few extra ingredients for

White Bean Chicken Chili

Happy New Year!!! It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already upon us. We know that we were a bit off the grid in 2015, but one of our resolutions is to get back in the kitchen and bring you more fantastic recipes and cooking tips.

Chicken Tenders with Grilled Romaine

For those of you who live in the Atlanta area, you know that school started for many students last week. My children were among those that headed back.  At the beginning of every school year, I have the energy and desire to cook new meals

Black Rice with Cilantro

You all have heard about my friend Kayla by now. She’s my taste-tester friend (and an amazing local jazz singer) who I also work out with. On occasion, we will go for a run and then treat ourselves to the most incredible lunch in Atlanta at Breadwinner

Feta Cheese Salad

Feta Cheese Salad

Feta Cheese Salad is another recipe from Olives, Lemon and Za’atar. This is definitely a dish that is right up my alley! It’s a great compliment to any piece of chicken or lamb. Lay off the onions if you don’t like them…it won’t mess too much with the overall flavor of the dish. 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 15 min.

Ingredients:

1 pound of feta cheese, cut into 1/2 in. cubes (please splurge on GOOD feta for this)

8 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 c. fresh oregano, chopped

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons or to taste

Sea salt to taste

1 smal red onion, sliced into thin rings, optional

Preparing Feta Cheese Salad:

In a medium serving bowl, combine the feta and tomatoes with oregano and red pepper flakes. Stir in oil, lemon juice and salt. Gently toss to combine. Taste and adjust the lemon juice, oil and salt to taste. 

Feta Cheese Salad

Important Tips:

If you are buying crumbled feta in a plastic container, make another dish. In order for this to be as good as it is supposed to be, you really need some GOOD QUALITY feta! It’s worth it. I promise. 

Meal Ideas:

The options for feta cheese salad are endless. A few of my favorite ideas are 1) as a side dish to chicken kabobs 2) in a piece of warm pita bread 3) over lettuce to make a more “traditional” salad and topped with chicken kabobs…this is actually the best way, in my opinion!

 

Meatball Sliders

Meatball Sliders

I was flipping through the January 2015 edition of Southern Living magazine recently and came across this recipe for Meatball Sliders. Can I just say, “AH-MAZING!” I made them on a Friday night when I knew the kids were having friends over since the recipes makes a lot of meatballs. I actually prepared the meatballs the night before and put them in the refrigerator. When I got home Friday afternoon after a busy day, I pulled out the meatballs to bring them to room temperature before putting them in the sauce. This could not have been more easy and everyone LOVED them! Note: I actually tried a meatball by itself and even though I am not a meatball expert, it was pretty awesome! 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 30min; Cook Time – 10 hours

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 large fresh basil sprigs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (28-oz.) cans whole tomatoes, crushed
5 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
24 slider buns or dinner rolls, split and lightly toasted
12 (1-oz.) provolone cheese slices, halved
Garnish: fresh basil leaves

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Crock Pot

Preparing Meatball Sliders:

1. Stir together first 6 ingredients in a 7-qt. slow cooker; stir in 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours. 

2. Meanwhile, place ground chuck and ground pork in a large bowl. Add next 6 ingredients and remaining 1 Tbsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper; mix gently just until blended. Gently shape mixture into 24 meatballs. (Do not pack.) Place meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet; cover well, and chill until ready to use.

3. Let meatballs stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Carefully submerge meatballs in tomato mixture in slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 1 hour or until meatballs are done, stirring after 30 minutes. (I actually cooked my meatballs about 90 minutes).

4. Preheat broiler with oven rack 7 inches from heat. Arrange bottom halves of 12 buns in a single layer on each of 2 baking sheets. Place 1 meatball on each bun;

Meatball Sliders

top with sauce and 1 halved provolone cheese slice. Repeat with remaining buns, meatballs, and cheese.

Meatball Sliders

5. Broil sliders, 1 baking sheet at a time, 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Top with top halves of buns.

Meatball Sliders

Meal Ideas:

Serve with a salad and call it a day!

Chicken Kabobs

Chicken Kabobs

I made these chicken kabobs for the first time a few weeks ago for a group of friends. Let me just tell you that there was not one piece left AND the first thing my son said the next morning was, “Is there anymore of that awesome chicken?” The recipe comes from a Middle Eastern Cook Book called Olives, Lemons, & Za’atar so there are some flavors and ingredients that you might not be used to. Don’t let that scare you away….give it a try!

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 10min; Marinate Time 3-8 hours; Cook Time – 15 min. 

Ingredients:

1 c. fresh lemon juice (about 8 lemons if they are juicy)

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

10 garlic cloves, minced

1 T. allspice

1 T. sea salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. paprika

4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 in. chunks

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Grill

Preparing Chicken Kabobs:

Whisk all ingredients together in bowl, except the chicken. Place chicken cubes in a resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and place in the refrigerator for 3-8 hours. 

Preheat grill over medium heat. Thread the chicken cubes onto skewers. Grill the chicken for 10-15 minutes, or until done, turning often. 

Chicken Kabobs

Meal Ideas:

There are a few things you can do with chicken kabobs. It’s easy to serve them with Syrian Rice and a green vegetable for a complete meal. The kabobs are also delicious when you put them in a piece of pita bread and top with some tatziki sauce!

Got Leftovers?:

This chicken is fantastic on a salad!

Vodka Pasta with Shrimp

Shrimp Vodka Pasta

Believe it or not, I made vodka pasta with shrimp for my family a few weeks ago. Melissa made me touch fresh shrimp recently and literally pull off its legs with my fingers so when I was buying shrimp for this recipe, clearly I was going the “already prepared frozen” route. The uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp looked too small. I wanted larger shrimp and the only option was cooked, peeled, tail on. Yeah me…I didn’t have to do ANYTHING except defrost it! Yes…one member of the family was irritated that she had to deal with tails herself, but when I told her she was lucky I don’t ever make her clean a whole chicken, she was good. My point in saying this is that you can easily use raw or frozen shrimp, precooked or uncooked for this particular recipe as it was delicious…or so I was told!! 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 20 min. 

Ingredients:

9 oz. fresh refrigerated fettuccine

1 T. olive oil

12 shrimp (you can buy frozen that is already cooked and defrost it, or buy uncooked, peeled and deveined)

4 cloves of garlic, crushed, divided

1/3 c. vodka

1 1/2 c. mariana sauce

1/2 c. basil, chopped plus more for garnish, if desired

1/4 c. heavy whipping cream

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Preparing Vodka Pasta with Shrimp:

Cook pasta according to directions and drain. Set aside. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and half of the garlic (if it’s already cooked and defrosted, you are just heating it up. If it’s raw, cook until done, about 4-5 minutes). Remove shrimp from pan. Add the rest of the garlic and cook for about one minute. REMOVE PAN FROM STOVE and add the vodka (pouring alcohol into a pan that is a directly over a flame could be a recipe for disaster. I did it once….needed baking soda to put the fire out and ruined the dish). Anyway, cook the vodka for about one minute. Add the marinara, basil, cream, salt and pepper.

Shrimp Vodka Pasta

Bring to a simmer. Return pasta and shrimp to pan and heat all the way the through. Serve hot!

Shrimp Vodka Pasta

Important Tips:

When cooking shrimp, remember that when the shrimp looks like a “C” it’s cooked. If it looks like an “O” it’s overcooked! 

Variations:

If you don’t like seafood, throw in some chicken instead of shrimp!

 

Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce

Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce

I was look through an old Food and Wine magazine recently and found this Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce recipe. It was a great way to jazz up a traditional piece of grilled chicken without a lot of work!

Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Time Required: Prep Time – 30min; Cook Time – 25 min.

Ingredients:

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 1/4 pounds)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
3 medium tomatoes—halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt

Preparing Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce:

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a medium baking dish, brush the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon of the oil and rub with the rosemary. Season with pepper and let stand for 30 minutes.

Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 6 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Mushroom Sauce

Cover partially and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 15 minutes.
Season the chicken with salt and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce
Season the mushroom sauce with salt and pepper and spoon onto plates. Slice the grilled chicken breasts on the diagonal 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the chicken over the mushroom sauce and serve.

Rosemary Grilled Chicken with Mushroom Sauce

 

Black Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili

The soup I originally planned to make last week was black bean soup. However, once my taste tester tried it, she said I needed to call it black bean bean chili instead because it had the consistency of chili, not soup. If you want it more soupy, just don’t use the emersion blender. 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 10 min; Cook Time –  40 minutes

Ingredients:

1 package of sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)

1 c. boiling water

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 ancho chiles in adobe sauce, diced

2 T. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 c. water

1 28 oz. crushed tomatoes (undrained)

3 15 oz. cans black beans (2 undrained, 1 drained)

Sour cream (for garnish, if desired)

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Emersion Blender

Preparing Black Bean Chili:

Place sun dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Add boiling water and cover. Set aside. 

Heat oil in large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add ancho chiles and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cumin, water and crushed tomatoes with the juice. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add black beans and continue simmering for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Black Bean Chili

Drain and chop the sun dried tomatoes. Add to the soup and cook for 10 more minutes. Using your emersion blender, puree the soup to desired consistency. 

Serve in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream, if desired. 

Black Bean Chili

 

 

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops

I was going though some meat that I had in my freezer and saw some thick pork chops…perfect for stuffing!  I decided to pull them out, but had no idea how I was going to prepare them. I knew I didn’t want a bread stuffing and didn’t have a long time to prepare them since it was an extra busy weeknight. I settled on a mixtures of feta cheese and pesto with an all purpose seasoning on the outside. These easy stuffed pork chops were pretty awesome, especially for throwing it all together on a whim! 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 5 min; Cook Time – 45 minutes

Ingredients for 3:

1 T. olive oil

1 T. butter

Thick cut pork chops (1 per person)

2 T. prepared pesto

1/4 c. feta cheese

Slavo Salt (or your favorite all seasoning spice blend)

Preparing Easy Stuffed Pork Chops:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. In a small mixing bowl, mix the pesto with feta cheese. Cut a slit in the center of the pork chop, making sure you don’t cut all the way though. You just want to make a “pocket”.  Gently put the pesto mixture into the slit of the pork chop.

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops

Secure with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining pork chops. Season both sides with desired amount of Slavo Salt. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with butter and olive oil.

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops

Brown the pork chops for 5 minutes, turning once. 

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops        

Place pork chops in oven safe dish. Pour juices from the skillet over the pork chops. Cook for 30 minutes, or until no longer pink. Serve hot!

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops

Meal Ideas:

I served this with brown rice and steamed broccoli. Healthy AND delicious!