Easy dinner

After a 3 hour drive for a trip home that should have been 1 hour and 40 minutes, I did not want to come home and cook something complicated. (I also wanted to watch the end of the US Open golf tournament and see the Ravens game.) Keith volunteered to grill so I bought steaks and then cheated with a store-bought salad (Samantha’s favorite with Gorgonzola cheese, nuts and dried cranberries) and even Bob Evans mashed potatoes.

Sometimes you just have to compromise!

Menu plan for week of 9/20

We were away this weekend visiting my mother-in-law. We hit terrible traffic coming home and got home later than anticipated. As a result, I needed a simple dinner for tonight and a streamlined plan for the week.


Grilled steaks, mashed potatoes and salad


Chicken with ham, cheese and bacon with steamed broccoli


Grilled pesto shrimp and pine nut cous cous


Pork tortillas adobo


New Orleans sausage pizza

Honey salmon

I was looking for something different and stumbled upon a recipe for honey salmon in a cookbook that I had never used before, The Berghoff Family Cookbook. This is from a Chicago restaurant. Perhaps I was frightened by their recipe for crabcakes which includes red onion, red pepper, corn kernels and cream cheese. Those are not Maryland crab cakes!

The salmon however was easy and had a nice flavor. Not Keith’s “favorite” but he admitted that it was good. When I did the blog on Sunday I planned to serve it with broccoli but I had some spinach left from last night’s pizza so I sauteed some shallot in olive oil and added the spinach until wilted.

Honey salmon

  • 2 salmon fillets (6- 8 oz each)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  • 1/3 cup seafood stock
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/8 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 TB honey
  • zest from 1/2 orange

Combine all sauce ingredients.

Season salmon with salt and pepper. Heat 1 -2 TB olive in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add salmon, skin side down and sear for 30 seconds. Flip and sear other side for 30 seconds. Turn heat down to medium low, pour sauce over salmon and cover. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes. Remove salmon to plates and turn up heat so sauce thickens. Pour over fish.

Serve with vegetable of your choice – the spinach went well with it.

Quick dinner

I went into my office today (I go two days a week and enjoy the change of scenery.) I got home about 5:30 and had a virtual meeting from 6 – 7:30. I knew I needed something easy and fortunately, this spicy chicken pizza is one of Samantha’s favorites. I roasted the garlic last night and cooked the chicken when I got home. Keith assembled and cooked the pizza and reheated mine so it was ready as soon as my meeting ended.

Spicy Chicken Pizza

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 small onions, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground chili powder
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 pizza crust
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • garlic to taste (either raw or roasted (wrap a whole head of garlic in aluminum foil and roast at 425 for about an hour)
  • shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • spinach

Preheat oven (with pizza stone) to 425.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add jalapeno and onion and saute 2 – 3 minutes until soft.  Add spices and stir to combine.  Add chicken and cook, stirring until chicken is cooked through.

Spread sauce on pizza crust.  Top with chicken, garlic, spinach and cheese.  Cook 8 – 10 minutes or until done.

Spicy steak salad

When I add a new cookbook to my collection, I hope for 3 – 5 inspirations. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. One of my very successful purchases was the Cooking Light Big Book of Salads. I have used it so many times that it is falling apart. That doesn’t stop me from turning to it for further ideas.

I gave it to Samantha on Sunday and asked her to choose a salad. She picked a spicy beef and rice noodle salad. She ended up being a little disappointed because the recipe calls for habanero pepper and I had to substitute jalapeno. The bright side is that you can add the peppers after the fact so I skipped the heat altogether and let Keith and Samantha divide the minced jalapeno.

Spicy beef and rice noodle salad

  • 4 oz rice-flour noodles
  • 12 oz flank steak, trimmed of fat
  • salt and pepper
  • cooking spray
  • shredded lettuce
  • sliced red onion (or scallion)
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno or jabanero pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 1 TB fish sauce
  • fresh basil leaves

Cook needles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Chop.

Freeze steak for 5- 10 minutes. Remove from freezer and slice thinly across the grain. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and cook steak until done (about 4 minutes).

Combine steak, noodles, lettuce, onion, cucumber and peppers. Whisk together lime juice, sugar and fish sauce and pour over salad. Top with basil. Serve.

Summer dinner

I make crabcakes a lot. We love them but sometimes it’s fun to do something a little different. I made crab imperial last weekend – we forgot how much we liked it! Excellent with skillet corn.

Crab Imperial

  • 1 lb crabmeat
  • 1/2 TB pimiento, chopped
  • 1/2 TB red pepper, chopped
  • 1 TB butter
  • Cream sauce
    • 4 TB butter
    • 4 TB flour
    • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (divided)
  • paprika

Preheat oven to 375. Saute pimiento and pepper in 1 TB butter.

Make cream sauce by combining 4 TB butter and flour over medium heat in a saucepan. When thick, gradually stir in milk, whisking until sauce is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in pimiento and pper, egg yolk, mustard, capers and Worcestershire. Mix in 3/4 cup of mayonnaise. Gently fold crab into mixture and divide between shells or ramekins. Top with remaining mayo and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake at 375 for 30 – 35 minutes. NOTE: These can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to heat.

Skillet corn

  • 4 – 6 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB butter
  • minced fresh herbs of your choice (I used basil, parsley and chives from the garden)

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add pepper and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Add butter and corn and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 – 10 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and minced herbs.  Serve hot.


Grocery list week of 9/13

Here is the grocery list for the week:


  • 4 – 6 ears of corn
  • red onion
  • orange or red pepper
  • fresh herbs of your choice (I used basil and chives from my garden)
  • lettuce
  • cucumber
  • habanero pepper
  • jalapeno pepper
  • yellow onion
  • garlic
  • spinach
  • 2 oranges


  • shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 8 slices of Swiss cheese
  • 8 slices of smoked ham

Meat and seafood

  • 1 lb crabmeat
  • flank steak
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • salmon fillets (I’ll get these later in the week)
  • pork tenderloin


  • pimiento
  • rice-flour noodles
  • pizza crust
  • tomato sauce
  • seafood stock
  • 6 inch corn tortillas

Check your pantry and buy if you don’t have:

  • olive oil
  • butter
  • flour
  • milk
  • egg
  • dry mustard
  • capers
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • mayonnaise
  • paprika
  • sugar
  • fish sauce
  • ground cumin
  • ground coriander
  • chili powder
  • orange juice
  • cinder vinegar
  • honey

Menu plan for week of 9/13

You would think that since last weekend was a holiday weekend, I would have had plenty of time to update the blog. Instead, it got away from me. I’m back with a mix of old and new for this week.


Crab Imperial and skillet corn (actually we are taking Samantha out for dinner for her birthday tonight but I made this last weekend and it was so good that I have to share the recipe)


Spicy beef and rice noodle salad


Spicy chicken pizza (one of Samantha’s favorites)


Honey salmon and steamed broccoli


Grilled pork tacos

The joys of a well-stocked freezer

The original plan for tonight was for grilled steak sandwiches. They look delicious but the weather forecast called for pouring rain all evening – not very conducive to grilling. I was in my office today so facing an hour commute home and a trip to the grocery store to get the steak. I checked in in with Keith at lunch and we agreed to change plans. He suggested we order delivery but I know how slow that is when it rains.

I started thinking about the freezer. I knew there was a pizza crust so I started from that. Then I remembered that there are frozen shrimp and that there is fresh pesto in the fridge (my basil has done really well this year and I’ve made two big batches of pesto.) A shrimp and pesto pizza will be just the thing to cook inside! Samantha doesn’t like shrimp but she remembered that there was still some chicken left from the chicken hummus bowls so she had chicken on hers.

Easy and delicious!

Crustless quiche

I love quiche and usually rely on my old standby herb quiche (a recipe that I’ve been making since getting it from a teacher in 6th grade.) But a recipe for greens and Gruyere mini-quiches caught my eye. I tweaked a bit – the recipe says you can use any leafy greens (kale or chard, for example) but we like spinach. The recipe also calls for anchovy paste and olives but those are not ingredients that Samantha loves so I omitted them. She was helping me make them and pointed out that bacon would be a great addition – maybe next time.

Green and Gruyere mini crustless quiche

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 TB water
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound of spinach, chopped

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, add onion and cook stirring until soft. Add water and reduce heat. Cover and cook until very soft and slightly caramelized (about 10 minutes). Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350. Spray muffin cups with cooking spray.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl and add cheese, garlic, pepper and cooked onion. Mix spinach into egg mixture. Fill muffin cups with mixture and cook 25 – 30 minutes until set. Remove from cups. (Cooled quiches can be frozen for up to 3 months but Samantha already claimed the leftovers for breakfast so we won’t be freezing any.)

New fish tacos

I make fish tacos with tilapia fairly often. I saw a recipe that mixed it up a little and thought I would give it a try. The honey in the slaw gave it a nice sweetness and the onion in the marinade added great flavor. It looks like a lot of steps but it didn’t take very long.

Citrus fish tacos


  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 TB orange juice
  • 3 TB lime juice
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tilapia filets

Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Season tilapia with salt and pepper. Put half of the marinade in a glass dish, place fish on top and pour remaining marinade over top. Let sit for about 30 minutes.


  • 2 cups of bagged slaw mix
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit.

Avocado crema

  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • juice from 1 lime

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.


  • corn tortillas
  • pickled jalapenos

Heat corn tortillas one at a time in a non-stick pan and place on plates. Top with slaw. Cook tilapia over high heat, about 3 minutes a side. Flake fish and place on top of slaw and top with jalapeno crema and jalapenos (and leftover chopped onion if desired.)

Delicious! Samantha doesn’t like tilapia but I had kept back some cooked chicken from last night’s chicken hummus bowls so she had a chicken taco. Here is the fish version:

And here is the chicken version – Samantha loaded it up with jalapenos!

Chicken hummus bowls

I found a recipe for a hummus and chicken dinner that sounded light and easy. The original recipe called for chicken thighs but Samantha prefers chicken breasts so I changed it up. Use whatever your family prefers.

Chicken hummus bowls

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1 inch pieces
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • 2 cloves chopped garlice
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • hummus
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • chopped parsley
  • warmed pita bread

Toss chicken with 2 TB of oil and spices. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and broil for 7-10 minutes. Combine garlic with pinch of salt and whisk in lemon juice and about 3 TB of olive oil. Add chicken to mixture. Let sit for about 5 minutes.

Divide hummus between bowls and top with chicken and vegetables. Serve with pita bread.

Incorporating leftovers

On Sunday mornings I make omelettes. We were away yesterday celebrating the contributions my late father-in-law made to his community so I never made it to the grocery store. I sauteed some sliced shallots and an heirloom tomato in a little bit of bacon grease for our omelette (with pepper-jack cheese and avocado on the side). The weather was so lovely, we enjoyed our breakfast outside.

I had leftover cooked tomato and leftover pesto pasta and panzanella salad from yesterday’s lunch. I figured grilled scallops would be great with the tomato and the leftover salads. And since they only required a brush of olive oil and a little salt and pepper before going on the grill for 2 minutes a side, I was able to play golf this afternoon!

Menu plan for week of 8/30

Hard to believe that summer is almost over. Here is the menu plan for the week:


Grilled scallops with tomato coulis and leftover pasta salad


Chicken hummus bowls


Fish tacos


Mini quiches


Open-faced steak sandwiches

Family luncheon

My father-in-law passed away in June. He was a dedicated resident of Oxford, Maryland and gave generously of his time and talent. The Oxford Community Center dedicated their miniature skipjack, Yankee Pedler to his memory on Saturday in a lovely ceremony. He had spent many hours on its restoration and upkeep so it was a fitting tribute.

Following the ceremony on Saturday, we had a family lunch. I turned to my favorite, The Barefoot Contessa for inspiration. In her Parties cookbook, I found a summer luncheon menu that I used in its entirety. The menu:

  • Panzanella salad
  • Shrimp salad
  • Pasta with pesto and peas
  • Chinese chicken salad
  • Lemon poundcake

It was a big hit and leftovers were incorporated into tonight’s dinner.


I make an Amatraciana pizza topping that is pretty popular in our house. I saw a Rigatoni Amatriciana recipe and thought it was worth adapting. Pasta isn’t Keith’s favorite, but he liked it. Samantha didn’t think it was spicy enough and added extra red pepper flakes. It was plenty spicy enough for me!

Rigatoni Amatriciana

  • 6 or 7 plum tomatoes
  • 1 – 2 TB olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 – 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • rigatoni
  • fresh basil leaves
  • shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450. Toss plum tomatoes with olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes until skin is blistered. Let cool and remove skin. Chop tomatoes.

Cook pancetta in a large nonstick skillet until crisp. Add onion and red pepper flakes to skillet and saute until onions are soft (about 2 minutes). Add wine and increase heat to high. Cook until reduced (about 5 minutes). Add tomatoes and marinara sauce and simmer.

Cook pasta in boiling water per package directions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking water. Return pasta to pot, toss with sauce and serve topped with grated cheese and torn basil leaves.

Nachos for dinner!

I found a recipe for chicken nachos that sounded great and tweaked it a bit. It was extremely popular! Samantha immediately said “This is a definite do-over!” This was going to be tomorrow night’s dinner but I decided to swap as I had a long day at the office today. Glad I did – this was also super-easy!

Chicken nachos

  • Shredded chicken (I roasted a large bone-in chicken breast with olive oil and salt and pepper last night. You could also use meat from a rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • tortilla chips
  • shredded Pepperjack cheese
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • sour cream
  • black olives (optional)
  • pickled jalapenos (optional)

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Preheat oven to 425. Spread chips out on sheet pan. Toss chicken with salsa and scatter across chips. Top with cheeses and black beans. Bake for about 8 – 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and optional toppings.

Sesame pork

I found a recipe for sesame crusted pork chops with sweet and sour sauce that I decided to adapt for a pork tenderloin. It went well with cous cous to sop up the sauce. I made more sauce than the recipe called for but my family asked that I make more next time!

Sesame crusted pork tenderloin

  • pork tenderloin
  • salt and pepper
  • peanut oil
  • sesame seeds
  • apricot jam
  • soy sauce

Season pork with salt and pepper. Brush with peanut oil and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Grill pork on a grill mat for about 15 minutes, turning several times. While pork is cooking, melt apricot jam and soy sauce in a saucepan over low heat. (I used 3 TB of each and everyone wanted more – I think next time I’ll do 5 TB of each. Samantha’s vote was to increase the quantity of the jam.) Slice pork and serve with cous cous and sauce.

A new shrimp salad

I found a recipe for a shrimp wedge salad and tweaked it a bit. I was worried that it would not be enough for dinner, but it is pleasantly filling. The heat sneaks up on you!

Shrimp Wedge Salad

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2 tsp Old Bay
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp Sriracha
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cut in wedges
  • 1 tomato, cut in wedges

Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet and saute shrimp until pink. Remove from pan and add panko and Old Bay to remaining oil. Cook for 3 -4 minutes. Mix mayonnaise and Sriracha. Serve with a wedge of lettuce, tomatoes, shrimp, seasoned breadcrumbs and mayonnaise dressing.

Menu plan for week of 8/23

We are back from our week at the beach. Great fun and lots of good food. Here is what we will be eating this week:


Shrimp wedge salad


Sesame crusted pork loin and cous cous


Baked rigatoni Amatriciana


Sheet pan chicken nachos


Pesto scallop arugula pizza

Beach dinner salad bar

Last night’s dinner was designed to offer something for everyone. I wanted tuna because the tuna at the beach is so good. Samantha doesn’t like tuna but we had leftover grilled chicken so that offered her a protein she liked. I had a variety of things and set them out with dressed lettuce and let everyone assemble their own plate. Here is what I did:


  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg
  • about 3 TB white Balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil

I whisked together the mustard and egg and then whisked in vinegar (I would have used sherry vinegar but they didn’t have it at the market here.) Then I slowly whisked in olive oil until it was emulsified (and I checked to make sure it tasted good.)

Salad options

  • grilled tuna
  • grilled chicken
  • leftover bacon from breakfast
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • sliced tomatoes
  • sliced peppers
  • warm goat cheese rounds (dipped in olive oil and panko and heated until just soft)
  • cooked potatoes (I used a package from the Little Potato Company and cooked them in the microwave)
  • croutons

Here is a picture of my plate:

New grilled chicken

I made a new grilled chicken last night. Keith took one bite and said “This is delicious”. A definite do-over. We used the leftover spice blend from a grilled chicken recipe we made a few weeks ago. It was a little different from what this recipe called for but it is a great rub for grilled chicken. Here is the spice mixture – it makes a lot so put it in a jar and label it.

  • 1 TB ancho chile powder
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 1 TB ground coriander
  • 1 TB ground ginger
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 2 TB Koser salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 TB chili powder

I used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. I rubbed the skin with the spice mixture and drizzled with olive oil. Keith grilled the chicken for 3 minutes skin-side down over high heat and then grilled on a mat for about 20 minutes. (They were big – temp needs to get to 145.

Remove from grill and slice. Top with mustard sauce.

Mustard sauce

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light green
  • 2 TB fresh chopped parsley

Whisk vinegar and mustard together and slowly whisk in olive oil. Then whisk in scallions and parsley. We had it with grilled zucchini.

Minor adjustments

Tonight’s dinner was going to be a salad with spiced pork and a ginger dressing. I have the pork tenderloin in the freezer. We had leftover ribeye steak from Sunday so it seemed silly to cook more protein. I had some tomatoes and red pepper that I chopped up with the spinach. There was goat cheese in the cheese drawer that I thought would lend some creaminess to the salad. Keith found two bottled salad dressings – an onion and sweet pepper vinaigrette that appealed to him and a creamy balsamic that appealed to me. It’s easy to pull together a salad with what you have on hand and a great way to use leftovers!

Again, so hungry (I played 9 holes of golf after work), that I forgot to take a picture.

From the garden

I spent some time on Sunday morning weeding my garden (I’ve neglected it a bit.) I noticed that the rosemary looked fantastic so that inspired tonight’s grilled rosemary garlic shrimp. I served it with cous cous and leftover zucchini fritters. We were so hungry that I never took a picture.

Grilled Rosemary Shrimp

  • Shrimp (app. 1/3 lb per person, peeled and deveined)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 TB chopped Rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Combine olive oil, salt, rosemary and garlic.  Brush over shrimp.  Skewer shrimp and grill for approximately 2 minutes per side on direct heat and 6 minutes on indirect heat or until opaque. 

Steak and zucchini

I had a busy day – started with weeding my garden and then moved on to fixing breakfast and going to the grocery store so I could spend the afternoon playing. Enjoyed 9 holes of golf and some relaxing pool time. Made more relaxing knowing that dinner was grilled steak and zucchini fritters. I bought bone-in ribeyes because they were on sale. We put some flavored salt and freshground pepper on the steaks and Keith grilled them for about 6 minutes per side. (He is really liking his new grill mat as it allows the meat to cook through with a little less char.) The zucchini fritters were a big hit.

Zucchini fritters

  • 2 zucchini grated with a coarse grater
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • olive oil

Combine zucchini with garlic, scallions, Parmesan, eggs, lemon zest and flour.  Heat a heavy saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Plop zucchini mixture into hot oil by tablespoons and cook 2 -3 minutes per side until crisp.  Remove to a plate covered in paper towels and serve hot.  Great with chipotle mayonnaise or green goddess dressing. (Samantha likes them with ketchup)

The other big hit was a dip that I made with leftover grilled corn. We had steamed crabs on Friday night with grilled corn on the cob. We cut off the leftover corn and saved it. We thought it would be a fun dip. Here is what I did (note – quantities are all approximate – I didn’t measure anything.)

Corn Dip

  • Grilled corn (I had leftovers from 4 cobs)
  • 1 minced jalapeno (from my garden)
  • 1 minced shallot
  • adobo seasoning (I had a packet of adobo seasoning from a spice shop – I probably used 1 1/2 TB of it – you could use chipotle chili powder or ancho chili powder or a mix)
  • dollop of mayonnaise
  • dollop of sour cream
  • crumbled Cotija cheese – I probably used 2 ounces)

Combine all ingredients and bake for 15 minutes at 350. Serve with chips. Delicious and a definite do-over!

Summer pasta salad

This chicken pasta salad is easy to make and absolutely addictive. I made it for a friend who said that she kept eating a little every time she passed the refrigerator. I made it for a work potluck (back in the days when we went to the office and had potlucks) and it has been requested for every potluck since.

Blackened Cajun Chicken Pasta Salad

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts split
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz. cajun or blackening seasoning mix (I don’t actually measure it, I just dump a bunch in a glass pie pan.  I mixed 3 different types together for this batch.)
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 – 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mayonnaise

Melt butter.  Dredge chicken breasts in melted butter and then in seasoning mix.  Sear 3 minutes per side in a heavy oven proof skillet and then cook in a 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes until done.  Chill.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Chop chicken into bite size chunks and toss all ingredients together.  (If you want spicy, you can add extra seasoning.)

chicken pasta

By request

Samantha asked for a salad with grilled haloumi on this week’s menu plan. I haven’t made this in quite a while and it is one of my favorites as well so I was happy to oblige. I paired it with grilled lamb chops (chicken tenders for Samantha). Delicious!

Salad with Grilled Haloumi

  • Salad Greens (I like Mache)
  • 3 TB Olive Oil
  • 1 TB Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 chopped Shallot
  • Haloumi cheese, sliced thin
  • Pam cooking spray

Rinse and dry greens.  In a jar, shake olive oil, vinegar and shallot.  Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and spray with Pam.  Cook Haloumi slices 3 – 4 minutes per side until browned.  Toss greens with dressing and top with grilled cheese.  Enjoy!

Butter chicken

I was looking for something for tonight that met the following criteria:

  • Easy (because I had a late conference call)
  • No grilling needed (thunderstorms in the forecast)
  • Something we hadn’t had in a while (I feel like I’ve been getting in a rut)

I found this butter chicken recipe I had made before and it met all of the criteria. I used my Breville smart oven to broil the chicken so it didn’t even overheat the kitchen.

Butter chicken

  • 1 pound chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 TB minced ginger

Combine all ingredients and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour and up to overnight.


  • 4 TB butter
  • 15 oz canned tomato saucee
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cream
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Broil or grill chicken until done (10 – 15 minutes).

Melt 3 TB of butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. When melted add tomato sauce, cayenne, sugar and salt. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until sauce begins to bubble. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 10 -12 minutes, partially covered. Add chicken to sauce and stir in cream and cumin. Cover and cook for 6 – 8 minutes. Uncover and add remaining butter. Serve with rice and naan.

Crab soup

We got this recipe from friends years ago and it is a go to in our house. It is easy to make, it makes a lot and it freezes beautifully. We made a batch last week and enjoyed some when we got home from our weekend travels.

Cream of Maryland crab soup

  • 6 T butter
  • 3 large onions chopped
  • 3 T chopped garlic
  • 48 oz frozen corn
  • 2 28 oz cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 T dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay (or more for zing)!
  • 3/4 teaspoon crumbled bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 1/2 cups bottled clam juice (6 bottles)
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • 2 lbs fresh crab meat

Melt 6 T butter.  Add onion and garlic – sauté 8 minutes.  Add 32 oz corn and sauté 5 minutes more.  Add tomatoes and all spices listed above.  Stir 2 minutes.  Purée remaining  corn and 3 cups clam juice in blender and add to pot.  Add remaining clam juice and cream.  Simmer 20 minutes until corn is tender.  Last, add crab meat.

Grocery list for the week

Here is the grocery list for the week (excluding the crab soup ingredients)


  • lime
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • avocados
  • lettuce
  • red onion
  • tomatoes
  • scallions


  • plain yogurt (small container)
  • heavy cream
  • sour cream
  • Pepperjack cheese
  • Haloumi cheese

Meat and seafood

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I got 3 pounds – one for the butter chicken and two for the chicken pasta salad)
  • 2/3 lb shrimp
  • lamb chops (1 rib and 1 loin per person)


  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • rice
  • tortillas
  • black beans
  • salsa
  • cajun seasoning
  • oriechette pasta

Check your pantry and buy if you don’t have:

  • butter
  • cayenne pepper
  • paprika
  • garam masala seasoning
  • ground cumin
  • olive oil
  • sherry vinegar
  • mayonnaise

Menu plan for week of 8/2

We were away for the weekend and came home last night. Fortunately, we had made and frozen crab soup last week so it was nice to come home to an already made dinner. Here is the plan for the week:


Cream of Maryland crab soup


Butter chicken and rice


Shrimp and black bean quesadillas


Grilled lamb chops and haloumi salad


Blackened Cajun chicken salad

Pizza night

Keith had tennis tonight and I wanted something that we could throw together quickly when he got home. It’s a little bit trick sometimes because while we like a lot of the same things, we don’t like all of the same things. It is easy to adapt a pizza crust so that everyone has a section that suits them. I’m the only one who likes olives but everyone else liked the other ingredients – Samantha just wanted to go light on the red onion. Keith grilled the chicken breasts the other night when he was grilling shrimp.

Chicken Pesto pizza

  • pizza crust
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts (marinate in lemon juice, olive oil and oregano and grill, then chill and slice)
  • pesto
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • sliced black olives

Preheat oven to 425. Top pizza crust with pesto. Then top with onion, chicken, cheese and olives as it suits all diners. Bake pizza for 10 minutes. Here is what it looks like with different toppings.

Planning ahead

I am back in my office two days a week. It’s nice to have the change of scenery but important to return to planning ahead. This Thai pork is a great choice – everybody likes it, it’s pretty healthy and I made the marinade and sliced the pork last night. It spent the night soaking up flavor in the refrigerator and when I got home I just needed to skewer the pork so Keith could grill it. We had ordered carryout Indian food on Saturday so we had leftover rice. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Thai Grilled skewered pork

  • 1 pork tenderloin trimmed of fat and thinly sliced into strips against the grain
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 TB coriander (cilantro) stems, chopped\
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 TB black peppercorns
  • 2 TB rice vinegar
  • 2 – 3 TB brown sugar
  • 2 TB dark soy sauce
  • 1 TB fish sauce

Place pork strips in a dish.  Grind pepper, coriander stems and garlic together in a mortar and pestle until they form a paste.  Whisk sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and fish sauce together and then add in about 1/3 cup of the coconut cream that is on the top of the coconut milk.  Pour into the mortar and pestle and stir together.  Mix well and pour over pork.  Marinate for at least an hour and up to all day in the fridge.  Skewer pork strips and broil or grill about 4 minutes a side.  Serve over rice.

Samantha had a late babysitting job so by the time we ate dinner, I was too hungry to take a picture!

Lemongrass shrimp

I love the flavor of lemongrass and it is very easy to grow. Put it in a big pot – you will be surprised at how it will take off. Not only does it provide fantastic flavor in Asian inspired dishes, it also looks great. Here it is with Curry, our Shetland Sheepdog to provide a sense of scale.

Lemongrass grilled shrimp

  • 2/3 lb jump shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 TB fish sauce
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • ground red roasted Thai peppers
  • 1 TB finely chopped lemongrass

Whisk together all ingredients except shrimp. Add shrimp to marinade and marinate for 30 minutes. Thread shrimp onto bamboo skewers (soak them in water first) and grill for about 2-3 minutes.

Serving this with grilled squash brushed with olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes and garlic powder.

Steak salad

We played golf this afternoon and I wanted a dinner that would be quick to pull together when we got back. This steak salad did the trick. I used fresh marjoram and thyme from my garden. I should have been able to use beautiful heirloom tomatoes from my garden but I’m in a war with a squirrel who has been eating the green tomatoes off the vine before they ripen. I’m really annoyed as I have 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes that I was looking forward to enjoying in all sorts of dishes. If you have tactics for scaring away squirrels, let me know!

Grilled Flank steak salad

  • flank steak
  • romaine lettuce
  • red onion cut into wedges
  • tomatoes (heirloom if you don’t have a squirrel problem)
  • vinaigrette


  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 TB chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 TB chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 1/2 TB Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Whisk first 6 ingredients together in a small bowl and then slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Pour half over the steak and marinate, refrigerated for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Grill steak for 10 – 12 minutes, turning once. Remove from grill to rest and grill onion wedges for 5 minutes.

Arrange lettuce on plates and top with steak and veggies. Serve the dressing at the table.

I also made eggplant stacks in an attempt to model the Eggplant Napoleon appetizer served at Petit Louis. I made a huge batch of pesto – fortunately the squirrels don’t seem to like basil and I have a bumper crop of that. Petit Louis makes the eggplant Napoleon with fried eggplant, goat cheese, pesto, tomato and tapenade. Keith and Samantha aren’t enthused about olives and I already had tomatoes in the salad so I just did a layer of fried eggplant topped with goat cheese, topped with another layer of eggplant topped with pesto and topped it with a third layer of fried eggplant. (I dipped the eggplant in egg wash and then panko and fried it in hot canola oil.) Samantha said “Mom, can you make this at least once a week?” 🙂

Dinner for a friend

We have a friend who had knee surgery last week and wanted to help with dinner for her and her family. Temperatures here were up to 100 today so we wanted to deliver something cool and refreshing. I opted for my my friend Becky’s Goddess pasta salad. I assembled the platter and brought the dressing so they can pour over the top when ready. It makes enough that it is our dinner too!

Becky is a Goddess Pasta Salad

Makes 6-8 servings

  •  1 3/4 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper for 10 minutes at 400
  •  1 (1 lb.) pkg small shell pasta, cooked rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp Champange or white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 small head Green Leaf lettuce separated into leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1-2 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • Green Goddess Dressing

Toss together pasta, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Line a large platter  with lettuce leaves; spoon pasta in center and top with shrimp.   Arrange tomato and bell pepper around pasta.  Serve salad with Green  Goddess Dressing

Green Goddess Dressing

  •  1 1/3 Cups Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 T chapped fresh chives
  •  2 tsp Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste ( I use much more than that)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  •  2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Salad plate

We were on the Eastern Shore for the weekend and got steamed crabs on Saturday. We intentionally bought extra. We “rough cleaned” them (you remove the shell and legs and just have the claws and the bodies) and brought them back. I picked the remainder tonight and made crab salad (just crabmeat, a little paprika, some lemon juice, mayonnaise and celery salt.) I served it with a sliced tomato from my garden, sliced hard-boiled egg, sliced avocado, and leftover pasta salad. Delicious!

Greek Salad

Keith is not a big fan of Greek Salad – but he loves this one. Marinating the onion and cucumber in the dressing softens the flavors, adding shrimp makes it more appealing and using good quality Feta improves the flavor. If you don’t think you like Greek Salad, try this one. You could add a different protein if you don’t like shrimp.

Greek salad (for 2)

  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 1 1/2 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 TB lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk ingredients together in a bowl

  • 2/3 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • lettuce greens (I used a mixture of green leaf and mache – Romaine is also good)
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 4 oz good quality feta cheese cubed
  • olives (optional – I omitted the olives because my husband isn’t a big fan)

Toss shrimp with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 for 8 – 10 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature.  Combine cucumbers and red onion with vinaigrette in a bowl for at least 20 minutes.  When ready to serve, combine lettuce with cucumbers and onions (including the dressing), add tomatoes, feta, olives (if using) and cooked shrimp.

Family favorite

Samantha loves this pasta dish – we all do. It is quick to fix and makes a lot. I have a friend coming for lunch on Wednesday and I know she loves it. I fixed for dinner tonight and we will enjoy again on Wednesday.

Blackened Cajun Chicken Pasta Salad

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts split
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz. cajun or blackening seasoning mix (I don’t actually measure it, I just dump a bunch in a glass pie pan.  I mixed 3 different types together for this batch.)
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 – 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mayonnaise

Melt butter.  Dredge chicken breasts in melted butter and then in seasoning mix.  Sear 3 minutes per side in a heavy oven proof skillet and then cook in a 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes until done.  Chill.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Chop chicken into bite size chunks and toss all ingredients together.  (If you want spicy, you can add extra seasoning.)

Stuffed flank steak

I saw a recipe for stuffed flank steak that sounded delicious.  The recipe called for butterflying the flank steak but when I asked the butcher, he said it was already flat enough.  In hindsight, I disagree.  I think the best strategy would be to buy a thicker flank steak and butterfly it.  It was a little bit hard to get it cooked evenly, but it was delicious!

Stuffed flank steak

  • 1 flank steak
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 lb sliced prosciutto
  • 1/4 lb Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
  • fresh basil leaves

Butterfly the flank steak (if possible).  Place between sheets of plastic wrap and pound flat with a meat pounder.  Whisk together shallots, red wine and olive oil and marinate steak between 4 hours and overnight.

Remove steak from marinade and pat dry.  Spread steak with prosciutto and fontina and top with basil leaves.  Roll steak tightly and tie with kitchen twine.  Season with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil.

Grill on direct high heat for 10 minutes, turning so steak cooks about 2 1/2 minutes per side.  Move to indirect heat and cook for 20 minutes or until meat thermometer registers done.  Let stand for 5 minutes and slice.


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup cabernet
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp honey

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan and add shallots.  Cook until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add wine and peppercorns and boil until sauce is reduced to about 1/4 cup (about 10 minutes).  Strain into a cup and add honey.  Serve with steak.

I served with roasted potatoes.  I tossed potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and basil and roasted at 400 for 40 minutes.  Delicious!

Grocery list week of 5/17

Here is the grocery list for the week:


  • 8 shallots
  • basil
  • small potatoes
  • 4 onions
  • spinach
  • red pepper
  • red onion
  • ginger
  • limes
  • garlic
  • jalapeno
  • Napa cabbage
  • avocados


  • 4 oz. Fontina cheese
  • smoked Gouda
  • sour cream

Meat and seafood

  • flank steak
  • 4 oz sliced Prosciutto
  • 2 packages boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • pork tenderloin
  • 2/3 lb shrimp (I’ll buy that later in the week)


  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 clans black beans
  • chipotle peppers in adobo
  • pizza crust
  • jerk seasoning

Check your pantry and buy if you don’t have:

  • red wine
  • olive oil
  • peppercorns
  • honey
  • canola oil
  • flour
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • sriracha
  • brown sugar
  • garlic powder
  • mayonnaise


Pork tortillas adobo

Last night got away from me and I never had a chance to blog the specifics of the grilled pesto shrimp. It is pretty straightforward, brush cleaned shrimp with pesto, skewer them and grill until done. We had it with cous cous.

Tonight’s dinner was a pork tortilla. Always gratifying when Samantha takes a bite and says “Yum!” The recipe I adapted didn’t make nearly enough rub – I increased it significantly. It also didn’t call for adding sour cream and pepperjack cheese but we thought they greatly improved the dish!

Pork tortillas adobo

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 4 TB brown sugar
  • 3 – 4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 TB cider vinegar
  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • flour tortillas
  • sour cream (optional)
  • pepperjack cheese (optional)

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil and then onions, granulated sugar, water and 1/2 of the salt. Cook until softened and lightly browned about 20 minutes. Add tomato sauce and simmer about 5 minutes.

Combine brown sugar, chili powder, oregano, cider vinegar and another pinch of salt. Rub pork tenderloin with mixture and grill for 15 – 20 minutes until thermometer reads at least 140. Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes. (While pork is resting, wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and heat in oven at 350 for about 10 minutes.) Slice pork into thin slices and add to tomato mixture.

Spoon pork mixture on one side of tortillas. Top with pepperjack cheese if desired. Fold over and top with sour cream if desired. (My spicy peeps added jalapenos.) Here it is before I folded it over.

Old favorite

My mom got this recipe from a bacon package when we were kids and we always liked it. We discovered a delicious applewood smoked ham from the deli at Graul’s. I”m not usually a big ham fan but this is so good. Fabulous on breakfast sandwiches. It got me reminiscing about this recipe.

Chicken with ham and cheese and bacon

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast per person
  • 1 slice deli ham per serving
  • 1 slice swiss cheese per serving
  • 2 slices bacon per serving
  • 1/4 cup white wine (optional)

Preheat oven to 375.  Place chicken breasts between two slices of wax paper and pound with a meat pounder or rolling pin until flattened.  Place a slice of ham and a slice of swiss cheese on each flattened breast.  Roll each chicken breast around the ham and cheese.  Place two slices of bacon per serving on a cutting board and place a chicken breast on top.  Roll bacon around chicken and place each bacon wrapped chicken breast in a ceramic baking dish.  Bake about 1 hour, turning chicken halfway through.  About 5 minutes before serving, remove and pour off bacon fat.  Pour white wine over chicken and return to oven for 5 more minutes. 

Serve with steamed broccoli to lessen the guilt!