Thai Quinoa Salad

Thai Quinoa Salad

Quinoa. We dated a few years ago. I couldn’t commit. We parted ways.

Then I was introduced to the quinoa salad at Zoe’s Kitchen (ahh mazing!), and I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t ditch this little grain just yet. Perhaps I just needed to find some better recipes. Perhaps quinoa is really a keeper. Perhaps.

So I found this recipe scouring the depths of Pinterest. The sauce was reminiscent of one of my fav dishes (Simple Asian Peanut Noodles), and so I felt like it had some real potential. Y’all – this stuff is good.  As Blake described it to Brogan last night when he asked what was for dinner: “Pure deliciousness.” And it is. I hope you enjoy!

Thai Quinoa Salad

1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to the package and drained afterwards
3 cups of shredded (or sliced very thin) cabbage
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced green onion

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp water

1) Add all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.
2) In a small bowl, mix the sauce ingredients until peanut butter is fully incorporated with the sauce.
3) Pour sauce over salad and toss until well combined.

Adapted from Sweet Peas and ABC’s Rainbow Thai Farro Salad

The Perfect One-Pot Pasta Side Dish

I’m always on the hunt for a good easy homemade substitution for the foods I used to love. And when I come across a really great alternative, I’m super excited to share. This recipe takes the place of the box pasta that I’d make once or twice a week (Pasta Roni, Lipton’s Noodles or Knorr’s Pasta Sides). While you can’t make this for less than $2, it is a one-pot side in less than 15 minutes, and I assure you the flavor will blow the others away. Plus, it’s free of all the preservatives and MSG that make the box options a no-go for me these days. I found this recipe on Pinterest and stayed pretty true to it. I’ve tried this with fresh basil, fresh parsley and dried dill… and dried dill is by far my favorite (although the other herbs were good too). This has turned into a top request in my house, and it has made it’s way on the weekly dinner menu for the last four weeks. Hope you enjoy!

Creamy Garlic Pasta with Dill

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced garlic
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 lb angel hair pasta
3/4 cup half and half
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried dill

1.) In a large pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
2.) Add pasta to the boiling stock, reduce heat to medium-low and cook according to package (prob 3-5 minutes). Once pasta is done, add half and half, parmesan cheese and dill and remove from heat. Stir well to combine and serve hot.

Creamy garlic pasta1

Creamy garlic pasta2

Creamy garlic pasta3

Creamy garlic pasta4

Creamy Garlic Pasta with Dill


Adapted from Catz in the Kitchen’s Creamy Garlic Pasta


Greek Orzo Salad

Now that it’s summer it’s time to roll out the salads! I first made this orzo salad for a bridal shower last spring. It was a big hit then, and so I made it about a dozen times throughout last summer. Somehow though, I never got around to blog about it! Well, I made it again last weekend, and so here it is!

This salad is light and fresh. It has just as much (or maybe more) veggies than pasta, and is dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. The feta cheese and artichoke give it the Greek flare and it’s really hard to eat just one bowl. Hope you enjoy!

Greek Orzo Salad

1 1/2 cups dried orzo
1/2 cup olive oil (plus some to drizzle on the cooked orzo)
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
3/4 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp minced garlic
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper, diced small
1 yellow pepper, diced small
1/2 a medium red onion, diced small
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1.) Boil orzo according to package. Drain, rinse and toss with a liberal drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
2.) In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, salt, pepper and garlic. Set aside.
3.) In a large bowl, stir together orzo, artichoke, tomatoes, peppers, onion, feta, parsley and dressing. Refrigerate for 1 hour to overnight.




Greek Orzo Salad

Sweet Potato Salad with Goat Cheese, Pecans and Cranberries

I may have said this once or twice, but I swear I mean it this time… this may be the best thing I’ve ever made. Seriously.  I was partly inspired by a sweet potato salad dish made by the wife of one of my co-workers. Hers is made with gorgonzola and red peppers. So yesterday when I was trying to come up with something to do with my sweet potatoes, her idea of mixing cheese with them in salad form came to mind. As some of you may know, due to my oldest son’s allergies, tree nuts are off limits in my house. So when we received his diagnosis last year, I put my pecans up on the highest shelf of my pantry, not sure if I’d ever get to use them again (sniff, sniff). But this week Brogan happens to be at the beach with his grandparents, and so…. I am free to use nuts once again!

There are so many flavors in this salad it’s incredible – the sweetness of the cranberries, sweet potatoes and honey, the savory and tangy taste of the goat cheese, the spicy sharpness of the green onions and the crunch of the pecans. The combo is really quite spectacular. I served this with a pork tenderloin, and while it would have been really good on it’s own, the flavor overload of the sweet potatoes left everything else on the plate a little dull by comparison. So if you live for sides (like me), this is one to wow you. And so without further adieu…

Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato Salad

3 medium/large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Olive oil for drizzling on sweet potatoes
1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
2/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced small
1/4 cup green onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Juice from half a large lemon (or 1 small)
1 tsp salt

1.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and toss with a little olive oil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
2.) While sweet potatoes are cooking, dice your onions. Place all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified.
3.) In a large mixing bowl, add onions, cranberries, parsley, cooked sweet potatoes, toasted pecans and goat cheese. Pour dressing over top and stir until well combined. Mixing ingredients while the potatoes and pecans are still warm will make the goat cheese nice and creamy. Serve warm or cold.

Sweet potato salad1

Sweet potato salad2

Sweet potato salad3

Scalloped Potatoes and Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken

I love a good side dish. Sometimes, more than the “main course”.  For me, scalloped potatoes have the potential to trump any meat, any day. And while this honey mustard grilled chicken was really good, the scalloped potatoes were great. I’ve attempted these half a dozen times before, but never got it just right. All that practice paid off with these bad boys. Issues I’ve had before – not enough/the right cheese, potatoes not cooked through and overall too bland were solved with using parmesan cheese (and lots of it), cooking it at a high heat (425 degrees) and flavoring it with thyme and green onions. Viola. Awesome potatoes.

Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes

6 medium sized russet potatoes
2 cups parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup flour
2 tbsp green onions, chopped
1 ½ tsp salt, divided
¼ tsp pepper
1 stick butter, divided
2 cups half and half
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme

1.)  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel potatoes and slice thin. Place in a bowl of water to prevent discoloring.
2.)  In a separate bowl, stir together 1 ½ cups parmesan cheese, flour, green onions, ¾ tsp salt and pepper. Set aside.
3.)  In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add half and half, half the stick of butter, garlic, thyme and ¾ tsp salt.  Heat thoroughly and stir occasionally.
4.)  While sauce is heating, place the other half stick of butter in a casserole dish and place in the oven to melt. Watch that it doesn’t burn.
5.)  Drain and dry potatoes. Once butter is melted in the casserole, remove dish from oven and begin by layering a thin layer of potatoes on bottom, sprinkle evenly with the cheese/flour mixture, and then pour some of the sauce on top as well. Repeat until you’ve layered all potatoes (I think I had 4 layers). After the final layer, take remaining ½ cup of parmesan cheese and sprinkle on top.
6.)  Bake for 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown and potatoes are fork-tender.

Scalloped Potatoes1

Scalloped Potatoes2

Scalloped Potatoes3

Scalloped Potatoes4

Scalloped Potatoes5

Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken

3 chicken breasts
¼ cup Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon Country Dijon)
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

1.)  Place all ingredients in a gallon Ziploc bag and make sure chicken is evenly coated. Let it sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
2.) Grill on a preheated grill for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side.

Honey Mustard Chicken and Scalloped Potatoes

Fried Okra

One of the gems of Southern cuisine… fried okra. My mom made this for me growing up, and so it has a nostalgic quality for me. It’s one of my favorites – because I’m pretty sure that when you fry a vegetable, all the bad things associated with frying gets canceled out… right?? Oh, and it is definitely Brogan’s favorite. He also associates this with my mom (aka Gigi), and even made me call her when I made this for him last week.  This recipe is pretty basic, but I assure you the flavor is not. If you’ve never tried it, you should. Enjoy!

Fried Okra

Fried Okra

1 lb fresh okra, stems removed, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 cup self rising corn meal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Vegetable or canola oil (enough to fill your pot 3/4″)

1.) Place cut okra in a gallon Ziploc bag. Add egg, close bag and shake until okra is evenly coated.
2.) In a small bowl, combine corn meal, salt and pepper. Pour corn meal into bag with okra. Close and shake until okra is again equally coated.
3.) Heat oil over medium-high heat in a skillet or dutch oven (I used a dutch oven to reduce the grease splatter). Test oil by dropping a little bit of the corn meal and see if it bubbles. Once it starts bubbling, reduce heat to medium and carefully add okra in with a large slotted spoon. Be careful to not add too much of the corn meal when adding the okra.
4.) Fry okra for 12 to 16 minutes (depending on the heat). Stir occasionally to ensure all sides are browning. Remove and place in a paper towel lined bowl. Sprinkle a little (extra) salt when they’re still hot (think French fries here) and enjoy!


Okra chopped

Okra breaded

Okra frying

Fried Okra2

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Casserole

Next up on the Thanksgiving recipe line up… Broccoli Casserole. But this one has a little something special – blue cheese. I got this recipe from my aunt and have been making it for years. Even before I was a big blue cheese fan, I have loved this casserole! It’s a great from-scratch recipe with no cream soup but a whole lot of flavor. I served this at our office Thanksgiving lunch today and they ate it up!

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Casserole

3 bunches of broccoli (about 9 stalks – see pic below)
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup blue cheese
2 cups milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup crushed crackers (see pic below)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Cut off broccoli florets (cutting large ones in half). Steam for about 10 to 12 minutes or until fork tender. Place in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice.
3.) In a saucepan, melt butter and add flour and salt to make a roux. Add milk while whisking. Add cream cheese and blue cheese and stir with a whisk until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Add mayo. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
4.) Add cheese sauce to broccoli in mixing bowl. Mix well until broccoli is evenly coated.
5.) Place into a casserole dish. Top with crushed crackers and bake for about 30 minutes or until crackers are golden and sides are bubbly. Longer if it’s sharing an oven with another dish.

I used 3 of these bunches… each bunch had 3 stalks

Broccoli cut up
Here’s the size of the cut broccoli

Broccoli blue cheese sauce
Blue cheese sauce

Broccoli and blue cheese sauce

Broccoli and blue cheese casserole pre crackers

Back to Nature Classic Round Crackers
These are my Ritz cracker substitutes – all natural and they taste exactly the same!

Broccoli and blue cheese casserole topped with crackers

Broccoli and blue cheese casserole

Broccoli and blue cheese casserole2

Creamed Spinach

The official kick-off to my holiday season is the Thanksgiving lunch at my office. It’s always the Monday of the week before Thanksgiving, and so it’s sort of a warm up (for cooking and eating) before the big day. My contributions to the lunch are: Pumpkin Pie, Buttermilk Pie, Broccoli and Blue Cheese Casserole, Squash Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach. I’ll eventually post all of these recipes, but I will start with the spinach.

A couple of years ago I sought after a Boston Market copycat recipe for their creamed spinach… and this one is really close (and maybe better). As is true with my other Thanksgiving casseroles, no cream of anything – these are all from scratch (or darn close). I hope you enjoy!

Creamed Spinach

3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
2 to 3 tbsp finely minced onion
20 ozs frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste

1.) In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 3 tbsp butter and add flour and salt to make a roux. Cook for about 1 minutes stirring constantly. Add milk while stirring. Once it starts to bubble, remove from heat.
2.) In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt 2 tbsp butter and saute onion. Add spinach and water. Cover and cook until spinach is heated through.
3.) Add white sauce, sour cream and parmesan cheese to spinach and stir until ingredients are mixed well.

I doubled this recipe in the pictures below.

Creamed Spinach2
I place the thawed spinach in a colander and use a large spoon to press it against the sides to remove all the excess liquid.

Creamed Spinach White Sauce
This shows how thick the white sauce will be right after it starts to boil.

Creamed Spinach3

Creamed Spinach
The finished product!

The Taco Night Superstar: Spanish Rice

I’m a sides kinda girl – sure the main course can be great, but I love a good side dish! (Just wait until Thanksgiving!!) So tonight I planned to make tacos and I thought all day about what else I could make to go with it.  I decided I’d try to make Spanish rice (an old time favorite of mine).  Although I had never made this from scratch before, I am pleased to say that my experiment turned out delicious!  This is a really simple recipe and cooked while I was making the taco meat, so it definitely qualifies as weeknight-worthy.  If I had planned ahead, I would have added some chopped red pepper (but I didn’t have any on hand).  Maybe next time.  But with or without red pepper, I think Spanish rice will be my new taco companion.  Hope you enjoy!

DSC_1199 2

Spanish Rice

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup white rice (I used jasmine rice)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1 2/3 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste

1.)  In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.  Add rice, cumin, salt, pepper and paprika. Cook for about 2 minutes more, stirring frequently so that rice does not stick to pan.
2.) Add chicken broth and tomato paste. Increase heat to high.  Stir well until the tomato paste fully dissolves.  When rice begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 13 minutes.

Click here for my homemade taco seasoning.