Sunday, May 25, 2014

Corn, Tomato and Black Bean Couscous Summer Salad

One of my favorite things about Memorial Day weekend is making summer pasta salads. This couscous salad is the perfect recipe to kick-off your summer season. It was a total hit for us this weekend. It's packed full of fresh ingredients and bursting with flavor. Make sure to serve it in a white or clear bowl because the colors alone makes this salad look like a 4th of July fireworks display. Bright yellow corn, lime green avocado, cherry red tomatoes, black beans, red onions, and pearl colored couscous allow this dish pop with vibrancy. That's all that's added to this salad is fresh lime juice, scallions and a little salt n pepper…the ingredients are so tasty by themselves that a heavy dressing would mask their flavors.

I served this salad room temperature but you could serve it hot or cold. What's great about being able to serve it cold or at room temperature means not having to worry about it going bad if it's sitting out at a BBQ or outdoor dinner party. You can also make this recipe in advance, just make it in the morning, refrigerate it and serve it later. I don't think you'll have to make this ahead because it's so quick to prepare. Plus, it's not a recipe you dread making because it's labor intensive….anyone can make this pasta salad it's that simple.  It will keep well until the next day but it really tastes best eaten the day you make it, so please keep that in mind.

This salad goes excellent with any poultry, beef or seafood. But honestly it makes an amazing vegetarian dish, so eating it alone will totally satisfy your appetite. Yes, you will love me for this recipe my dear vegetarian friends! So if you are looking for a vegetarian dish, a crowd pleaser dish, or an easy to prepare pasta salad dish, make this for your next summer gathering. It will be a total hit like it was in our house this weekend. Salute to summer pasta salads!
Avocado, corn, red onion and black beans…look at the colors!
Now the cherry tomatoes…even more vibrant
Add the cooled couscous which takes less than 10 minutes to make
And there you have it…a summer salad bursting with color and flavor!
It goes well with anything or even as a satisfying vegetarian dish
Corn, Tomato and Black Bean Couscous Summer Salad (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 10


  • 1 5.8 oz box Near East brand roasted garlic couscous (cooked according to package) 
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 2 scallion sprigs, chopped
  • salt n pepper to taste
Cook couscous according to package and let cool. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add corn, black beans, avocado, tomatoes, onion and stir. Add cooled couscous and stir. Now add lime juice scallions and salt n pepper and gently mix until the ingredients are all well coated. Place salad in a large decorative platter.

Food Impressions:

Nate: He just ate some plain couscous….he doesn't like onions or avocado…but you all probably know this by now!

Tyler: "I think this salad tastes so good. The corn makes it really sweet." He ate two helpings and also had a helping of plain couscous….he couldn't get enough.

Zachary: "Wow, mom this is good with the couscous."

Dave: "Love the avocado. Anything with avocado is good with me but it really is a nice compliment to the rest of the ingredients."

Andrea: This recipe is top notch. I plan on making this often throughout the summer. It really keeps well until the next day as well. It's one of those salads that you take one bite and then you can't stop, especially a you are preparing it!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Taco Turkey Burgers

If you are thinking of making just plain ole' beef burgers this weekend, seriously reconsider after you read this post. Three simple words will make you say "I'm grilling those tonight"…..Taco-Turkey- Burgers. They are out of this world delicious and super healthy for you. What's better than super delicious and super healthy?…not much in my opinion. They will taste like you are biting into a juicy taco, only better. The boys thought we were just having hamburgers tonight and after taking a bite each one said "Wow, these taste like a taco!" The toppings also make this burger irresistibly delicious…melted muenster cheese, sliced avocado, red onion, nacho strips and salsa. Oh, and be warned, these taco turkey burgers are so huge you'll need a fork and knife to eat them. Unless, they are meant to be sliders, nothing makes me more disappointed when I get a puny burger. So, I always make mine extra large, so I'm extra satisfied. Plus, the hungry men in my house would have it no other way. So make your next BBQ extra special by making these amazing turkey burgers. Salute to big, fat, juicy, healthy, taco turkey burgers topped with melted, muenster cheese, avocado, red onion, nacho strips and salsa….YUMMO!
The diced chili peppers add a nice kick 
A few of the toppings, avocado, red onion and nacho strips 
Just grilled and the muenster cheese is melted
Fork and Knife required!
Taco Turkey Burgers (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and grill time: 30 minutes

Serves 10


  • 4 pounds ground turkey 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small can diced chili peppers
  • 1 package of your favorite taco seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • 10 slices Muenster cheese
  • 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • thin nacho strips (you'll find in the crouton section)
  • salsa
  • 10 hamburger rolls
In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients and mix well. Divide ground turkey mixtures into 10 equal sized hamburgers. Grill 7-10 minutes per side. Add muenster cheese until melted. Place on a hamburger roll and add toppings.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "These taste like tacos. Super good."

Tyler: "These really do taste like tacos. They are a little spicy too."

Zachary: "Yep, they taste like tacos."

Dave: "I'll have a send one please!"

Andrea: Such a nice alternative to plain beef burgers, plus they are healthy. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Summer Signature Cocktail: Blueberry Mint Lemonade with Vodka

Are you looking for a refreshing festive cocktail for Memorial Day Weekend or this summer? Well look no further because this adult cocktail I'm sharing with you is simply amazing! Last week Dave, the boys and I went to Liberty Hound Restaurant on the waterfront. Love it there! It was a warm night and everyone was ordering LH's signature cocktails. I ordered the Liberty Lady and was blown away by the taste. It had tons of muddled fresh mint, blueberries, strawberries, rum, soda water and lime juice. Talk about a spectacular adult concoction…yum! I told Dave it would certainly be my signature cocktail for the summer.

Knowing that Memorial Day was right around the corner and the weather forecast was calling for temperatures in the 70's and sunny (FINALLY!) I went out and bought ingredients for this cocktail inspired by Liberty Hound's. I didn't make mine exactly like the Liberty Lady because I wanted to make my very own concoction. Mine includes muddled mint, fresh blueberries and strawberries, vodka, fresh lemonade, soda water and a splash of cranberry juice. Let me tell you, it's pretty darn good! Be careful because they go down quickly and there are two shots per drink. yep, they'll make you feel good in more ways than one! I also made these for the boys but without vodka of course, and they loved them too!

And what's an amazing cocktail with out amazing stemware, right? Liberty Hound serves their signature cocktails in mason jars, which in my opinion sets a cool rustic summer vibe. Well, I was so excited because I happened to find the cutest mason jars for my signature cocktail! Take a look at those babies, aren't they perfect? I love them because they have lids, come with plastic straws and have a chalk board medallion to write names or a quote. Dave just shakes his head now when I buy stuff like that. He used to say "why did you buy that, do you really need that, don't you have a hundred of those already?" but we've been together waaaay too long for him to question my frivolous spending habits anymore. He knows it's a loosing battle. So I simply told him I planned on making him the most amazing, the most refreshing, the most satisfying adult libation ever. Once he took a sip, he forgot all about my frivolous spending!

So if you plan on hosting a party this Memorial Day weekend or you plan on just hanging with your family in the backyard, treat yourself to this Liberty Hound inspired cocktail. You deserve it! Salute to my summer signature cocktail: Blueberry Mint lemonade with Vodka! Cheers!

If you don't have a mortar and pestle simply tear the mint with your fingers. The mint really makes this drink so good!
Look how refreshing it looks!
Impress your guests with this adult libation!
Do you see why I couldn't resist these mason jar babies??
Blueberry Mint Lemonade with Vodka (Click to print recipe)

Serves 2


  • 6 ounces of vodka
  • 12 ounces fresh lemonade
  • 8 ounces soda water
  • 10 sprigs of fresh mint, muddled
  •  20 fresh blueberries
  • 4 strawberries, cut in half
  • cranberry juice, a couple of splashes
In a medium sized pitcher add vodka, lemonade, soda water and mint. Shake or stir until well mixed. In 2 small mason jars or glasses, add some ice cubes. Pour the vodka/lemonade mixture equally into the glasses. Add blueberries and strawberries in each glass and then add a couple splashes of cranberry juice and gently stir with a straw. You can make this cocktail ahead of time and put all ingredients in a pitcher and keep in the refrigerator…this allows the flavors to meld together, especially the mint.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Haricot Verts with Almonds and Lemon

You say haricot verts and I say green beans. Same, different, just a fancy name you say. Well let's see what Wikipedia says. If you type in "haricot vert" in their search it redirects you to "green beans." There are over 130 varieties of green beans and haricot verts otherwise known as french bean happens to be a variety of a green bean. The unique quality of haricot verts is that they are longer and thinner. I actually prefer cooking with haricot verts because they cook quickly and their shape is more uniform. Plus, I consider the haricot vert the prettier and snootier variety… and I like that! You can get them from Wegmans or Trader Joes and they are pre washed, prepped and nicely packaged. I just grab them and go without having to dig through bulk green beans and picking through the good and the bad.

Steam them, sauté them or eat them raw, haricot verts never go to waste in our household. Actually as I was making this recipe Dave kept hovering over my shoulder grabbing raw beans. I had to slap his hand a few times, but that didn't stop him. Oh who am I kidding, I kept eating them raw myself. What I love about green beans is that they go with anything and I can't say that for many vegetables. Seriously, think of a dish where green beans don't make a good side? I can't think of any. Plus, they are super healthy for you…they are a good source of fiber, filled with vitamins and minerals. Plus, one cup of green beans is only 35 calories. So eat away with any meal.

I love making green beans with a little butter and salt and pepper and I'm a happy camper. But sometimes I like to jazz up my green beans, so tonight I made Steamed Haricot Verts with Almonds and Lemon. This recipe is so light and refreshing, the lemon gives it a bit of tang and the almonds give it a nutty crunch. My preferred method of cooking green beans is steaming them. 5 minutes in the microwave and your done. A friend of mine, Tracy F. asked me what my favorite cooking accessories where. I told her it was a great question and that I never really thought about it before. I also told her that her question would eventually provoke me to post about them, because I have tons! Well Tracy, here is one of my favorite kitchen accessories that I use often…it's the Pampered Chef Large Micro Cooker for the Microwave. I've had mine for years and it's never failed me. It steams all vegetables perfectly and quickly. So if any of you are at a Pampered Chef party make sure to buy yourself one and you will love it. And Tracy, more of my kitchen favorites coming, so thanks for asking!

So I steamed my haricots in my Pampered Chef steamer and they came out perfectly. I added a drizzle of Wegmans basting oil, a handful of sliced almonds, a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dash of salt n pepper. Simply delicious! Salute to haricot verts, the longer, thinner, prettier and more snooty green bean variety!
My Pampered Chef Micro Cooker, my favorite steamer

Don't you agree they are the prettiest and snootiest of green beans? That's why I love them!
Haricot Verts with Sliced Almonds and Lemon (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and cook time: 10 minutes

Serves 6


  • 1 pound of haricot verts
  • generous drizzle of Wegmans basting oil (If you don't have on hand add 1 tb minced garlic with olive oil)
  • juice of half lemon
  • 1/4 cup of sliced almonds
  • salt n pepper
In a steamer add beans and 1/4 cup of water and microwave for 5 minutes. Place on a platter and add a generous drizzle of Wegmans basting oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, almonds, and salt n pepper to taste. 

Food Impressions:

Nate: "I don't want any almonds on my beans." 

Tyler: "I could just eat these all day. Can you put some in my lunch?"

Zachary: "I like the almonds because they are crunchy and nutty."

Dave: "Perfectly cooked and tasty."

Andrea: One of my favorite vegetables. They are versatile and go great with any dish. I didn't give Tyler any for his lunch because I saved them for my lunch! Sorry Tyler baby!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Mint Walnut Pesto

When it comes to really expensive cuts of meat or even semi expensive cuts, I typically defer to Dave to help out with the preparation and cooking method. Why? Well number one, he is the master when it comes to cooking meats and number two, if it doesn't turn out, I don't want to be the only one to blame!

Dave and I used to make rack of lamb all the time but when the boys were younger we just stopped. I think it probably had to do with the fact that when the boys were younger I wasn't sure if they would truly appreciate rack of lamb. I mean my boys have always had adventurous palates and I knew they'd like lamb but would they really love lamb? Why would I spend a lot of money on a cut of meat that they would just like? They LOVE hamburgers, so I'd get a bigger wow factor from them after taking a bite of a juicy burger rather than a piece of lamb. And that was true for a lot of foods, like veal chops or sea bass. My thought process is that I am only willing to buy expensive cuts of meat and seafood for the boys when I am confident that they will truly LOVE it, think it's the best thing ever, and after every bite say "oh my gosh, I am in food heaven!"

Well this was my boys lucky week because I bought 2 french cut racks of lamb for dinner. I felt confident and crossed my fingers that they would love it. Well they didn't just love it, they looked like they were in food heaven. In fact, 2 racks weren't enough, 3 would have been perfect for our family…that's how much they/we loved them. They licked the ribs so clean it looked like a dog got at them! It was a proud moment for me because they truly appreciated the rack of lamb. I think they liked it so much because, as I mentioned earlier, Dave is the master chef when it comes to cooking meats. It was so succulent, tender and juicy…he cooked it to perfection. I made a mint walnut pesto on the side and it was a classic compliment. I also served stilton cheese on the side and Zachary enjoyed taking a bite of lamb and then a bite of stilton. No, the boys didn't want to use knives, they ate the lamb like they were eating lollipops!

Rack of lamb is an elegant cut of meat, but it certainly doesn't have to be served at an elegant affair. We  certainly didn't. It's also very easy to make. Dave just seasoned it with olive oil and salt n pepper and roasted it in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Each rack comes with 8 ribs and it's suggested you serve 2-3 per person. We were more in the camp of eating 3-4 each….so with 5 of us 2 racks wasn't enough. I spent $16.99 a pound and each rack was about 1 1/2 pounds. Yes, expensive but well worth it. If I get the reaction I did from the boys every time I make rack of lamb, I will make it often! I think I'll make sea bass for them next! Salute to Roasted Rack of Lamb and my boys feeling as though they were in food heaven!
2 Racks of Lamb about 1 1/2 pounds each, just add olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper, roast for 20 minutes
Juicy, tender and succulent. Serve with Mint Walnut Pesto and Stilton Cheese. Pure food heaven!
Walnut mint pesto made in the food processor,
takes minutes to make
Classic compliment to the rack of lamb
Roasted Rack of Lamb with Mint Walnut Pesto (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and cook time: 50 minutes

Serves: 4-5


  • 2 racks of lamb (1 1/2 pounds each)
  • salt n pepper
  • olive oil
Ingredients for Mint Walnut Pesto:
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups fresh mint leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tb red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the two racks of lamb on a roasting pan and generously rub olive oil and salt and pepper on lamb. Roast in the oven on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes for medium rare. When done roasting, let sit out covered for 10 minutes. Slice between each rib and serve with mint walnut pesto.

While lamb is roasting in oven make mint walnut pesto. Add all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until it's a smooth creamy like texture.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "These are like eating pork ribs when we were at the Dinosaur BBQ. I hope there is more because two isn't enough."

Tyler: "Wow, this is super tasty. I almost like it better than steak. I want more too."

Zachary: "I love it with the cheese. There isn't a lot of meat on each rib. Why does Nate get a third piece? I want a third piece."

Dave: "Wow, fantastic job if I do say so myself! These are amazing. Super flavorful and tender. The mint pesto is just ok."

Andrea: Yes, the boys fought over the last few pieces of rack of lamb. I know to buy 3 racks next time. They were out of this world. I agreed with Dave that the mint pesto was just okay. I used to make it with a mustard panko crust and I think I'll stick with that recipe. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

5 Minute Marinara Sauce

Being 100% Italian, nothing makes me happier than cooking my mother's and grandmother's homemade tomato sauce recipe. Growing up in an Italian household meant having homemade sauce at least once a week. And we called it "sauce." When my mom would say "I'm making sauce," we knew that meant homemade tomato sauce with homemade meatballs and pork, over some type of pasta. My mom would cook the meat and sauce all day long and the house would smell absolutely amazing. The best part was when she would have us taste test the sauce by dipping a large piece of crusty italian bread into it. Delish! I think that's probably the boy's favorite part, and Dave's too…taste testing the sauce with bread.

As much as I love making homemade tomato sauce I don't always the time to cook it all day long. So when our family is in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs, like Dave did this afternoon, I have to make my 5 minute marinara sauce. It's not nearly as good as my family's "sauce" recipe but this is pretty darn delicious. And it only takes 5 minutes to prepare! I'd much rather make my 5 minute marinara sauce than buy a jar of store bought sauce. After you taste this, you'll see the huge difference in taste and you won't buy jarred sauce again for your pasta.

So how do you make this 5 minute marinara you ask?…it's so simple it's ridiculous! Using your food processor, add two cans of good quality whole tomatoes (San Marzano are best), 1 small can of tomato paste, 1/2 white onion, 4 garlic cloves, a dash of parsley, oregano and red pepper flakes, a handful of fresh basil leaves and salt and pepper. Press the high pulse setting and puree and until smooth. Done! Now add to a saucepan and heat it up. That's it. Waaay better than the jarred stuff. Although it's not necessary, I had my marinara sauce heating on the stove top for at least an hour. The house smelled amazing, like an authentic italian restaurant. Zachary walked in the house from playing outside and said "Oh my gosh, yay, you are making SAUCE!" I just said "Yes Zachary, homemade sauce!" Little did he know it was only my 5 minute marinara. Salute to my 5 minute marinara and making the house smell like it was my grandmother's sauce that had been stewing all day!

The sauce is heating and the meatballs just came out of the oven
The house smells like the sauce has been cooking all day
And here it is, 5 Minute Marinara over spaghetti with freshly grated parmesan cheese
Homemade meatballs on top!
5 Minute Marinara Sauce (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and cook time: 5 minutes to prep, 15 minutes to heat on stovetop or however long you choose to heat it.

Serves: 8-10

  • 2 cans of large whole tomatoes (San Marzano are best)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 1/2 t dried parsley
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
Mix all ingredients in a food processor on high until smooth. Add marinara sauce to a large sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat until it comes to a light bubble…about 15 minutes. Serves over you favorite pasta.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "I better stop talking because this is really interfering with my ability to eat this spaghetti and meatballs quickly!" Yes, Nate was a chatter box at dinner tonight. Mostly taking about being nervous and excited about starting middle school at St. Marks.

Tyler: "This is so good. I am so glad you made this because you haven't made sauce in a long time." 

Zachary: "Yay, you made sauce! Can we have this for the next three days?"

Dave: "Let's toast to mom for making us spaghetti and meatballs."

Andrea: My 5 minute marinara made my family VERY happy tonight! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Smashed Potatoes with Stilton Cheese and Scallions

Sometimes potatoes can be boring! Well these potatoes my friends are far from boring. In fact these morsels are amazingly delicious. They are a cross between mashed potatoes and potato skins. The center of the potato is soft  and creamy and the outer skin is crispy and flavorful. This recipe isn't the quickest to make because there are a few steps involved, but believe me the extra effort is well worth it. You basically boil red or white baby potatoes until they are tender, gently smash them with a metal spatula, add olive oil and salt and pepper and bake in the oven until crispy. Then add your cheese topping and bake for an additional 5 minutes. I added a good quality stilton cheese to the tops and diced scallions. I also made a few with cheddar cheese for the boys. Honestly, you could add whatever topping you'd like and it would probably taste spectacular. Choose your toppings like it's a mini pizza. Be creative, use what you have in your pantry or add whatever strikes your mood. Heck, serve a dip with it and dunk away! Salsa, horseradish, french onion, chipotle, chili cheese. I kept it simple and added a dollop of plain greek yogurt as a dip to give it a cool refreshing bite. the best thing about these potatoes is that anyone can make these or anyone can help out. Nate helped me smash the potatoes….a fun job for him or any kid. We had to toss the first one because I had to tell him to gently smash the potatoes and not smash them like he was playing Whack a Mole! Geez Nate! You can also make this recipe as a side dish or as an appetizer and 2-3 per person is good. So however you choose to make these amazingly delicious smashed potato morsels, they will be a total hit at your dinner table. Salute to a creative, far from boring, twist on potatoes!
Nate gently, gently I say, smashing the potatoes
Potatoes before being baked and crisped in the oven
Just out of the oven. Now to add the cheese!
A dollop of greek yogurt to add a cool bite
Smashed Potatoes with Stilton Cheese and Scallions (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and cook time: 1 hour

Serves 6 as a side

  • 12 baby red or white potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt n pepper
  • 1 ounce of stilton cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tb diced scallions/green onions
  • optional * plain greek yogurt or sour cream on the side
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil potatoes in a large pot of salted water until tender when pierced with a fork. Place potatoes on a cutting board. Potatoes will be hot so be careful. Using a metal spatula, gently push on potatoes until they are flattened half way. Press gently or else they may fall apart. Add flattened/smashed potatoes to a cookie sheet with a coating of olive oil. Drizzle more olive oil over the top of the potatoes and salt n pepper. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden and crispy. Add stilton cheese to the tops of each potato and bake in the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Serve on a platter and add scallions. Add a side of sour cream or plain greek yogurt to top.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "Yep, I'm the one who helped smash these babies!"

Tyler: "These are really tasty. Better than french fries!" Tyler had the cheddar and the stilton cheese and loved them both.

Zachary: "I love the crispy parts. And the cheese is super good on them."

Dave: "I think crumbled bacon on the top would add a great layer of flavor. These are delicious."

Andrea: I will make these for an appetizer because they are a real crowd pleaser. The nice thing is that the potatoes can be boiled and smashed ahead of time. And just before a party you could bake in the oven. I think bacon crumbles would be excellent on top too!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wonton Soup with Bok Choy and Fresh Ginger

Dave is out of town again on business, so if you see his food impressions missing in action lately that's why. He has been traveling an unusual amount recently. He cries that it's exhausting traveling so much….I cry, ya right, take me with you and I'd gladly be exhausted….especially when it's New York City. He's staying at the Plaza (I'm saying The Plaaaza in that stuffy kind of voice darling) and he's in a room that looks more like a Manhattan Apartment! Poor Davie..I feel so sorry for him.

Honestly, when Dave does travel and I'm not tagging along, I use this as an opportunity to do something special with the boys, something that Dave would not have any interest in doing, things that make him cringe. Like having a pizza party in our bedroom with Pizza Hut Pizza and watching horror flicks. Yes, call me crazy but I love Pizza Hut pizza…it's the buttery, greasy crust that does it for me! 3 things that make Dave cringe: eating upstairs, eating Pizza Hut pizza, and watching horror flicks. Well Dave will be happy because we only did two of the things that make him cringe…eating upstairs and watching horror flicks! Who doesn't like scary movies, right?

My plan was to order two deep dish pizzas and a double order of breadsticks with marinara sauce from Pizza Hut and then I changed my mind. The weather has been rainy all week and I was in the mood for soup. I didn't tell the boys my plan was to get pizza so when I made soup there was no complaining. Plus they simply love soup. So I made giant bowls of homemade Wonton Soup with Bok Choy and Fresh Ginger. Gosh it was soooo good.

Dave called me, from The Plaaaaza don't forget, to say goodnight and that he was going to dinner. I said to him well you have fun and enjoy your dinner because we are eating the most delicious wonton soup ever. He thought it was odd that I didn't get Pizza Hut pizza and asked that I save some soup for him. I told him the way the boys are devouring the soup I wasn't sure there would be any left. I know how much Dave loves soup so I did save him a bowl, even though I was a tad envious that he was in NYC and I wasn't!  Then I thought for a moment, as I looked at the boys all comfy cozy, wrapped in their blankets, leaning against their pillows, in their PJs, with stuffed animals by their side, eating giant bowls of my homemade wonton soup, watching scary movies in our bedroom….where would I really rather be: at home or NYC? Hands down, at home. Salute to being at home with my boys eating giant bowls of Wonton Soup, camping in our bedroom watching movies!

Wonton Soup with Bok Choy and Fresh Ginger (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 6


  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tb finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cups of cut bok choy (chinese cabbage) I used baby bok choy
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • frozen mini chicken or pork wontons - about 20 wontons (I used Trader Joe brand) or *use 2 packages of ramen noodles 
  • 4 scallion sprigs sliced
In a large soup pot, add broth and ginger over medium-high heat until it comes to a mild boil. Add bok choy and carrots and let cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add wontons and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. Add scallions. Serve in deep bowls and garnish with extra scallions.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "I could eat 10 bowls of this soup it's so good."

Tyler: "It's not so easy trying to eat this soup in the bedroom. I like the wontons but whats the green stuff inside?" Cilantro Tyler.

Zachary: "Can you get me a second bowl…I don't want to go all the way downstairs!"

Andrea: Very very good soup. It's lighter and not heavy on the sodium. It's fresh tasting and the ginger adds a nice touch. I love simple soups, especially ones that don't require a lot of prep work. Supe quick easy meal to make during the week or as a first course.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Spinach Brownies - Say Whaat?

I was at a wine tasting party a few months ago. There were amazing wines and amazing food pairings to go with it. A co-worker of mine was there and she brought an appetizer to the party. She insisted, and I mean insisted that I try her appetizer which she called "spinach brownies." I did not want to try her so called spinach brownies…it looked too much like a breakfast food, plus the recipe title was odd…spinach brownie! That doesn't even sound appetizing…is it breakfast or is it a dessert? Sounds like a bit of an identity crisis to me!

After she asked me again to try her appetizer, I just told her it looked really good. Then I tried steering our conversation in another direction in hopes that she wouldn't insist I try her spinach brownie again. Well our conversation lasted a whole 5 minutes and she was back to insisting I try her recipe. She said she didn't get a chance to taste it, wanted to make sure it was good and wanted my opinion. I was like great she wants me to be her guinea pig. She then proceeds to cut a slice for me, puts it on a plate and says "Here you go, try it." I felt like she was my grandmother trying to feed me liver as a kid and not being able to say no. Plus, I kept thinking this appetizer which seems more like breakfast…this is really going to throw off my whole wine tasting palate. AND to boot I'm going to walk around with spinach stuck in my teeth after taking a bite. So the good person I am, said "Oh thank you for cutting me a piece." She looked at me anxiously awaiting my response…I begrudgingly took a bite and was like holy-deliciousness! It was amazing! It didn't taste eggy like I thought it would. It tasted really cheesy and spinachy. I took another bite and then took a sip of my Savignon Blanc that I was sampling. It paired so well together, seriously, I know! Shame on me for resisting to try her recipe and kudos to her for practically shoving it down my throat. I told her how absolutely delicious it was and even took a second piece.

I never asked her for the recipe but I remember her telling me a few key ingredients. I've improvised the recipe and it tastes delicious every time. It has been a staple in my house ever since. Although this is really an appetizer, I typically make it on a weekend and eat it for breakfast. I also make sure to make plenty of extras so I can bring it to lunch during the week. It keeps really well and heats up in the microwave in under a minute. When I make this recipe as an appetizer I add chopped artichokes. The boys love it, especially Zachary. Dave likes it but it's not hearty enough for him. I usually bake this in a 9 x 13 inch glass bake pan but since I made this for Mother's Day and wanted it to look fancy, I cut the recipe in half and made it in a quiche pan. So why is this called spinach brownie? I have no idea other than the fact it's baked in a 9 x 13 inch pan and it's cut into brownie sized squares. Salute to making this deliciously odd sounding recipe, that will probably cause you to unknowingly walk around with spinach in your teeth!

Spinach Brownies (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and cook time: 30 minutes

Serves 6 in 10 inch quiche pan

*Double recipe if using a 9 x 13 pan and cut into square pieces and bake 35-40 minutes


  • 1 frozen package of chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup half in half
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup  crumbled feta cheese
  • dash of nutmeg 
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/8 t pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the quiche pan or spray with a non stick cooking spray. Whisk eggs, half n half and greek yogurt. Add spinach, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, nutmeg and salt n pepper. Mix until well blended. Pour spinach/egg mixture into quiche pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Food Impressions:

Nate: "Delicious. I feel like I have so much energy for the day now."

Tyler: Didn't have any…he opted for a huge piece of italian bread toasted with butter.

Zachary: "Ohhh, I love it when you make spinach brownies. Why are you cooking it in that round dish? They are thinner now." Zachary had 3 helpings!!!

Dave: Didn't have any…he opted for poached eggs over italian bread. He used my new egg cooker…can't wait to post about that cool accessory!

Andrea: Love, love, love! I especially love to eat this for lunch at work. I haven't served this as an appetizer yet but if I did I would probably add chopped artichokes to it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Strawberry Scones - Moist and Flavorful!

Every once in a while I get a craving for scones. You're probably thinking scones, why scones? Who gets a craving for bland dry little hockey pucks. I certainly don't crave scones that are bland and dry but I do crave them when they are moist, flaky and flavorful, with a hint of sweetness…like the ones they make at Niagara Home Bakery on Queen St. in Niagara on the Lake. They have the absolute best scones. I've searched high and low for a scone recipe that matches their incredible taste and texture. It hasn't been easy and I certainly haven't mastered their scone making skills but this recipe I'm sharing with you is pretty darn close. I think scones get a bad wrap for being dry and bland because people don't know what they really are or what they are supposed to be. Scones taste bland because, well they're supposed to. Scones originated as a Scottish quick bread and resemble more of a biscuit texture and flavor. Think of a scone as a piece of thick bread that you toast and then spread a creamy butter or homemade jam to it. Many people take a bite of a scone and cry bland because they expect it to taste something like a muffin. Well it's not supposed to. I love a good muffin, like my berry muffins, but they are loaded with sugar. Yes I know, our taste buds are in love with sugar. The scone recipe I make calls for hardly any sugar and most of the sweetness comes from the fresh strawberries or fresh fruit that's added to it. In my opinion I'd much rather take a bite of a sweet strawberry rather than a bite of sweet sugar. These scones are perfect for breakfast, brunch, an afternoon treat or even as an after dinner dessert. And for those of you who really have a sweet tooth, like my three sons, add a dollop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top an it will taste like strawberry shortcake. If I'm not having the scone for breakfast but rather a dessert I like adding a touch, I mean a big touch, of powdered sugar just like they do at Niagara Home Bakery! Salute to moist, flavorful strawberry scones.

Shape into a ball on a floured surface
Flatten dough with your hands and add fresh strawberries
Fold dough in half so strawberries are buried.
Flatten with your hands.
Using a cookie cutter or a glass, cut 10 scones
Place scones on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and rub heavy cream on top of each scone.
Bake for 15 minutes
Flavorful, moist scones! Add butter, jam or powdered sugar!
Strawberry Scones (Click to print recipe)

Preparation and cook time:  30 minutes

Makes 10

  • 2  cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tb granulated sugar
  • 2 tb baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 stick of cold diced unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs whisked
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cups diced strawberries
  • powdered sugar *optional for top
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix with a fork. Add diced butter to flour mixture and mash with a fork until butter is well mixed into the flour. It should resemble a thick course flour mixture. Add whisked eggs and cream and mix with your hands or a large spoon. Mix until ingredients are blended together but don't over mix. Dough may be a little sticky. Shape into a ball. Add ball of dough to a flat floured surface. Flatten dough with your hands in a circle shape until it's about a 1/2 inch thick. Add strawberries to top of dough then fold dough mixture in half. Continue to flatten dough with your hands and shape until it's about 3/4 inch thick. Using a small round cookie cutter or glass, cut 10 scones. Place each scone on parchment paper. Spread a little heavy cream on top of each scone. Bake in oven on middle rack for 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and spread butter or jam on top or let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Food Impressions:

Nate: "I loved these for dessert last night but I like them even better this morning. Maybe scones taste different in the morning."

Tyler: "What are these? They don't look like muffins. I really like it when I get a big bite of strawberries." 

Zachary: "Super good and scrumptious."

Dave: "Nice with my coffee."

Andrea: I love this recipe for scones. You can add any fruit and it would taste flavorful and moist. Perfect breakfast treat!