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Well it’s time to introduce my cooking duo!  Anna and Alyssa!  They  have helped in the kitchen since they were practically old enough to stand by themselves and I love having them there!  Comedian Anna0001Sure it’s sometimes messy, but we’re having fun here and they’re learning.  But ssshhh!  Don’t tell them!  :^)

In the last year or so I’ve even let them begin to experiment with recipes of their own design.  This has been super fun and gets them so excited to try new things.  During one of our cooking adventures, they came up with the name Little Sisters, Big Taste as the official logo for their endeavors and created the Scale of Spoonitude (1 Spoon being the easiest of recipes to 5 Spoons being “only with lots of extra help from Mom or Dad”) to tell other kids how hard the recipes are.  I promised to give them some space on my website and so you have recipes that are tried and true from our kitchen, tested by my kids and eaten by Dad of course.  Periodically I will be presenting my dynamic duo and their fun, kid tested and approved recipes.  We hope you enjoy them!

Their first recipe…
In an effort to use some more of our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, I put a whole bunch of ingredients out on the counter and told them they were in charge of creating dinner.  They took up this challenge with gusto and createdLittle Sisters Big Taste Turkey Tacos with Avocado Sauce.  This is 100% their own recipe with only a little help from me…  After all I didn’t think we should actually cook the cucumber in the taco meat, but sliced, it did make a great side dish.

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8 Chicken Thighs, boneless skinless
1 small Onion, chopped
2 Apples, peeled & chopped (Honey Crisp, Gala, or Granny Smith work best.)
¼ cup Dried Cranberries
1 cup Dry White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc works well.)
4-6 cups Chicken Stock
3-4 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-4 sprigs Fresh Thyme or 1tsp dried
Salt and Pepper to taste

Coat a large nonstick, pan with olive oil and bring to high heat.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken to the pan and brown all sides.  Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

Lower the heat to medium high and discard any excess fat in the pan.  Add the onions to the pan and sauté until translucent; 3-5 minutes.  Add the apples to the onions and brown slightly.  Add the wine and reduce by half.  Return the chicken and any juices to the pan.  Add chicken stock to almost cover the chicken; add the cranberries and thyme.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer the chicken, covered for 30-35 minutes.

Once the chicken has cooked for 30-35 minutes, remove it from the pan and reserve.  Remove the thyme sprigs (the leaves should have come off during cooking.)  Continue to cook the sauce until is has reduced slightly.  Taste the sauce and season to taste.

Serves 4-6

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1 lb Green Beans, cleaned and trimmed
1 cup Carrots, julienned into 1-2 inch pieces
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2-3 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Carefully drop the green beans into a large pot of boiling salted water.  Boil for 2 minutes then quickly remove the beans from boiling water and immediately drop into ice water.  This technique is called blanching and is important to do so that the beautiful green color of the beans will be preserved.  Once the beans have cooled drain them and wrap in paper towels.  (This step can be done up to two days before serving.)

Just before serving…

Preheat a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat and olive oil.  When the oil is hot add the julienned carrots and green beans.  Sauté until the beans are heated through and the carrots are crisp tender; 5-7 minutes.  Add the minced garlic to the pan and continue to sauté for 1 minute more.  Season the beans generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Note #1:  The term “julienned” simply means to cut the carrots into matchstick-sized pieces.  It’s a bit tedious to do but the presentation is beautiful.  One trick I use often is to use baby carrots.  This seems to cut out some of the work.

Note #2:  You can also add julienned yellow squash as a variation.

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1 globe Garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 pounds Potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt to taste
1 cup Sour Cream
1 cup Heavy Cream
3 tbs Unsalted Butter
3-4 tbs Fresh Rosemary, minced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off the top of the garlic bulb to expose some of the cloves inside.  Place the heads on aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil and wrap.  Roast the bulbs until the cloves are lightly browned and tender; approximately 30 minutes.  Cool.  Squeeze cloves out of the skin and mash them with a fork on a plate.

Meanwhile place potato pieces in large pot with 1-2 tbs salt and cover with cold water.  Put on stove over medium-high heat and bring to a rolling boil.  Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes; drain them well.

In a separate sauce pan melt butter and add heavy cream and sour cream; heat until hot but not boiling.

In a large bowl mash the potatoes with a potato masher or even better, put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill; add rosemary and garlic to taste (not too much you can always add more.)  Slowly add the hot cream mixture a little at time stirring the potatoes gently until desired consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Potato Cheese Soup

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups leeks, sliced
5 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
8 cups water (chicken stock may be substituted)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups grated Sharp Cheddar cheese*
1/2cup milk (1/2 cup heavy cream may be substituted for extra richness)
1/4cup green onions, chopped for garnish

In large pot melt butter. Add leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it’s creamy or working in batches, place the soup into a blender and puree, return to pot and bring to simmer. Add mustard and cheese. Stir until smooth. Add milk and bring to simmer. Pour into bowls and serve with a sprinkling of extra cheese and chopped green onions.

*I’ve recently found an Irish Cheddar with Stout that was outstanding in this soup!  But use your imagination.  I might try some blue cheese, bacon bits and a dash of hot wing sauce next time or how about smoked gouda…

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One Chicken, 3 Meals!

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)

Slow Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

1 Whole Chicken (cleaned)
6 Celery Stalks (washed and chopped into 1-inch segments)
6 Carrots (peeled and chopped into 1-inch segments)
1 large Onion (sliced into segments)
2-3 large Garlic Cloves (minced or 1-2tsp garlic powder)
4 cups Water
6 Rosemary Sprigs (or 1tsp dried)
6 Thyme Sprigs (or 1tsp dried)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place chicken and vegetables in the slow cooker.  Season with salt and pepper and drop fresh herbs in or sprinkle the chicken and vegetables with the equivalent dried herbs.  Pour in the water.  Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

To serve, remove the vegetables to a serving bowl.  Remove the chicken to a platter and de-bone.

Frugal Tip:

Once you have removed the meat from the bones, place the bones and cooking broth into a large pot with an additional 6 to 8 cups of water and simmer for at least an hour, but two would be better.  Allow to cool slightly, then strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into freezable containers.  Voila! homemade chicken stock.

Weeknight Pasta

1 cup Chicken shredded (leftover from above)
1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 small Leeks (finely sliced, white parts only)
2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
1 Bell Pepper (seeded and chopped)
4 cups Chicken Broth/Stock
½ – ¾ pound Pasta (any shape is fine)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and pour in the olive oil.  Sautee the leeks and bell pepper until softened; 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more; add chicken, chicken broth and pasta.  Stir well then cover until the liquid comes to a simmer.  Remove the lid and continue cooking until the pasta is done and the broth is thickened.

To serve, remove the pasta to the plates and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Kitchen Tip:

To clean leeks; cut off the root end; slice the leek in two lengthwise, then slice the white and tender green parts only into half moon shapes.  Drop all the slices into a large bowl of water and “swish,” allow to sit for 5 minutes then gently remove the leeks onto a paper towel.  All of the sand will be at the bottom of the bowl.

Chicken Taco Salad

1 cup Chicken shredded (leftover from above)
1 cup Salsa
½ cup Sour Cream
1 can Black Beans (drained and rinsed)
Lettuce (approximately ½ head for a family of 4)
½ cup Cheese (Cheddar, Monterey Jack… whatever you have in the fridge)
Tortilla Chips (crumbled for sprinkling…remember the crumbs at the bottom of the bag????)

Heat the chicken with 1/2cp of salsa on the stovetop or in the microwave until hot.  In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2cp salsa with 1/2cp of sour cream for the dressing.  Like a traditional taco bar, allow your family to decide how they want to make their individual taco salads.

Serving Tip:

Additional ingredients can include jalapenos, avocado, fresh tomatoes, and corn.

Additional Recipe Ideas:

Chicken Caesar Salad
Chicken and Yellow Rice
Chicken Salad
BBQ Chicken Pizza
Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Enchiladas
Chinese Chicken Salad
Chicken and Dumplings

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15oz can         White Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
3-4cups          Baby Spinach (Frozen chopped spinach can be substituted)
3 cloves          Garlic, minced
6-8 slices       Salame, cut into strips (Bacon can be substituted, just cook then crumble)
2tbs                 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1lb                   Pasta (Whatever shape you have on hand)
Parmesan Cheese, for serving

Cook the pasta according to the package directions in salted water.

While the pasta cooks preheat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add 1tbs of olive oil and salame strips.  Sauté the salame until nearly crisp; remove to a paper towel covered plate.  In the same pan add the remaining 1tbs olive oil and garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the white beans and spinach; cook until the spinach is wilted and the beans are warm.  Remove from heat.

When pasta is al dente, drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.  Toss the pasta with the spinach mixture and add the water a little bit at a time to make a little sauce.  Remove the pasta to plates, sprinkle with salame strips and Parmesan cheese.

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Basic Pizza Dough

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)
1 tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
1 cup Water (really warm, 110F degrees)
1 teaspoon Honey
Nonstick Spray
3 cups Unbleached Flour
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
2tbs Ground Flax Seed or Oat Bran
1tsp Salt
3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the dough we use mom’s stand mixer, but if you don’t have one you can do everything in a bowl, but then you will have to hand knead the dough.

In a measuring cup for liquids, measure 1 cup of hot water and stir in honey and yeast.  Allow the yeast to proof for 5 to 10 minutes.  (Proofing is a fancy way of saying… Allow the yeast to get foamy.  Mom says if the yeast is good, it will make thick foam at the top of the measuring cup.)

While the yeast is proofing, spray the inside of the bowl and dough hook with nonstick spray.  Combine flour, Parmesan cheese, flax seed and oil in the bowl.  Put the lid on the mixer and turn it on low until the ingredients are mixed.  Turn off the mixer, remove the lid and add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture; put the lid back on and turn on the mixer to combine everything.  Once all the ingredients are combined, check the dough and make sure it isn’t too crumbly.  If it’s crumbly add water a tablespoon at a time until all the flour is incorporated.  If the dough seems too sticky add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is less sticky.  Turn the mixer on and let it knead the dough for 5-7 minutes.  After the dough is kneaded, turn it out into another bowl, sprayed with nonstick spray; cover the dough with a towel and place the bowl in a warm spot in the kitchen so the dough can rise.  Rising will take 30 minutes to 1 hour and the dough will double in size.

After you let the dough rise, cut the dough into 2 equal sections.  Take one section and put on a floured surface; cover the remaining dough with the towel so it won’t dry out.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out, on a floured surface, into a ¼-inch thick circle.  You are now ready to top the dough with Pizza toppings.

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Weekly Meals 11/9-11/13

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (1)

So this week I’ve given myself a challenge.  I’m not going grocery shopping, but I’m going to make our family meals right out of the pantry with some of the vegetables we are still getting out of the garden.  (Don’t be mad!  It’s just one of the perks of living in So. Cal!)  I try to do this every once in a while for a few of different reasons. One, I like being frugal with our grocery budget.  Two, I like the creative challenge this gives me.  (Between you and me, my husband seems most impressed with my cooking when I randomly make something out of nothing.  It makes him smile, which makes me smile.  Nice.)  Three, I don’t like food getting lost in the back of the pantry so by cooking this way I am forced to really look at what’s in my pantry and use it.  Some time in the future I will create a list of the pantry items I regularly keep so if you are new to cooking or just an overwhelmed cook you will have something to go by.

Monday: Chicken, Pineapple, & Vegetable Stir Fry My kids love stir frys and it’s a great way to get them to eat more vegetables.  For this one I used some precooked and chopped chicken thighs I had marinated with Soyaki (a favorite sauce from Trader Joe’s).  I sauteed sliced onion and carrots then added the chicken and some fresh pineapple.  I had the fresh pineapple on hand but you could certainly use canned.  Then I served everything over brown rice.

Tuesday: Taco Salad Use your imagination and whatever meat you might have frozen in the freezer.  I will use some frozen shredded chicken (leftovers from a previous meal.)  Cooked up with onion and peppers from the garden.  I’ll toss all of that with salsa I have in the fridge.  The chicken and salsa mixture will then go on top a bed of romaine lettuce with fresh tomatoes, cheese, and sprinkling of crumbled tortilla chips.  If you want to take this meal vegetarian, replace the chicken with black or pinto beans.

Wednesday: Crockpot Chili Beans This is made just like the Black Bean & Rice Soup except I’ll use extra seasonings and I’ll leave out the rice.  I’ll serve these beans with homemade corn bread.

Thursday: Spinach and White Bean Pasta with Salame Ok, this a fun one and so simple with ingredients from the pantry.  If you don’t have salame you could certainly use bacon as the topping.  I’ll serve this with a great rustic No-Knead Bread I found.  Note:  The bread recipe requires that you start the dough the night before you plan to eat it.

Friday: Homemade Pizza Night I keep our favorite pizza toppings in zip top bags in the freezer, I use my homemade sauce, and I make the dough.  So this meal is great for saving money and is fun for the whole family!

With happy and frugal blessings from my kitchen to yours!

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Taco Night

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)

This is a great healthy version of taco meat.

1lb    Ground beef or ground turkey
1       Onion, chopped
1       Red Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
1tbs  Chili Powder
1tbs  Cumin
1tbs  Cocoa Powder
8oz  Tomato Sauce
15oz  Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed

In a large saute pan, set over medium-high heat, brown the meat with the onions and peppers.  When the meat has browned and the onions are translucent drain the meat of any excess fat.  Add the chili powder, cumin and cocoa powder; saute for 1 minute so the spices have a chance to toast.  Add tomato sauce and kidney beans and allow to heat through.

Serve the taco meat in taco shells with chopped lettuce, tomato, cheese, and salsa

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