Thursday, May 27, 2010

mexican shrimp cocktail

It's Memorial Day weekend and everyone has a barbecue to go to and everyone needs to "bring a dish."  Not many people have time to spend an hour or two in the kitchen preparing one though.  That's why this 15 minute dish is perfect!  It requires 2 pounds of cooked shrimp, but this time of year you can get a frozen bag on sale for about $8 at your local grocery store. This is my version of Mexican shrimp cocktail.  It is so good and so easy.    Leave it to sit in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.  Everyone will be asking for this recipe.

Be sure to bring some bowls so guests can ladle themselves a serving!

  • 2 pounds cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (I buy the frozen, medium shrimp in a 2 1b bag with the tails off)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 3 T  fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1/4 cup clam juice
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (bottled works fine too)
  • 1 t tabasco sauce
  • 1/4 cup creamy horseradish sauce
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 ripe avocado - peeled, pitted and chopped


  1. Defrost shrimp in cold water for about 10 minutes, drain and dry thoroughly or the dish will be too soupy.
  2. Place all ingredients (except avocado) in a 9 X 13 dish and stir together.
  3. Add shrimp to dish and stir to combine, cover and refrigerate overnight or for 3-4 hours.
  4. Before serving, fold in avocado.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

crispy rosemary chicken and potatoes

I love using fresh herbs this time of year.  We used to plant all different varieties in our garden.  It was so difficult to just run out and snip what I needed and quickly head back inside.  All of a sudden I am on a scavenger hunt for crocs, the sand box is open, little feet are stomping on the lettuce and I'm prying a screaming baby off the swings all because I needed 3 tablespoons of rosemary.  I have also potted them on our deck for easy access but I found that took too much space.  Thanks to Martha, I constructed a gi-normous tower of herbs that sits in the corner of the deck.  It only takes the space of one large pot but holds eight different herbs. This makes snipping so much easier.

Here is a really easy prep ahead dish that uses some of those great fresh herbs that you can grow or buy locally this time of year.   You could substitute dried oregano (1/2 the amount) but use fresh rosemary if you can!  


  • 6 split chicken breast (bone in)
  • 6 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
  • 3 T dry white wine
  • 2 T chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 t chopped fresh oregano
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • salt and pepper to taste


1.  Combine oil, wine, herbs, garlic and lemon zest in a large roasting pan.
2.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
3.  Using your hands, rub the olive oil/herb mixture all over the chicken.  You need to put the mixture underneath the skin of the chicken breast.  Peel it back and spread the mixture right on the chicken.  This makes a huge difference in the flavor of the chicken!
4.  Place the chicken skin side down in the pan.  Cover it with foil and refrigerate overnight.
5.  The next day, remove pan from fridge and scatter the red potatoes around the chicken making sure they are all well covered in the herb/oil mixture.
6.  Bake the chicken uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  At this time, flip the chicken and give the potatoes a stir. Bake an additional 30 minutes.  To crisp up the skin, turn the broiler on high for about 5 minutes or so.  

Prep Ahead:  Making the herb/oil mixture and rubbing it on the chicken takes about 10-15 minutes the night before (and that includes clean up)!  

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

baked mac and cheese

I think I have about 5 different versions of homemade mac and cheese recipes.  They are all variations of the same idea:  whip up a cheese sauce on the stove, mix it with elbow pasta, top with ritz crumbs and bake.  I found this recipe on one of those online recipe sites a while back and immediately liked it for two reasons: 1) It had over 1,500 five star reviews  AND 2) You mix all of the ingredients in the 9 X 13 pan, then stir in the pasta.  No melting and mixing up a cheese sauce, no bowls to wash and nothing to chop.  Sounded good to me!  When I first read the ingredients I wasn't sure if the flavor combination was something my family would enjoy but I made it anyway.  How could over 1,500 people be wrong?  They weren't.  It is delicious, easy and can be prepped the night before!  

Here is my adapted version of the original recipe!


  • 1 (8 ounce) package elbow macaroni (regular or whole wheat)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (I use the white, but it doesn't matter)
  • 1 (12 ounce) container reduced fat small curd cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup milk ( I use skim)
  • 1 (8 ounce) container reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 T melted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F . Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until done; drain.
  2. Spray a 9 X 13 inch pan with cooking spray. In the 9x13 inch baking dish, stir together  shredded cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, milk,  Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Stir in macaroni until covered with the cheesy mixture.  In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle topping over macaroni mixture.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is golden.

***Prep Ahead:  Make the whole dish the night before.  Takes 10 minutes to boil the pasta and mix up the cheeses.  Refrigerate until the next evening!

Monday, May 24, 2010

spanish spiced rub chicken with mustard green onion sauce

Bobby Flay has so many great grilling recipes!  This is one of my favorites.  Make the sauce and season the chicken the night before and refrigerate both until you're ready to grill!  Don't let my wordy directions and multiple ingredient lists deter you from making this dish!  It's quick to prepare and quick to grill the next day.  Two of my girls eat the chicken without the sauce but the baby could make a meal on condiments alone so the sauce is a must on her plate!

mustard green onion sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 T dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
3 T fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Whisk all ingredients ,except scallions and parsley, until oil is well combined.  Fold in scallions and parsley.  Set aside. (or refrigerate if you are prepping ahead!)

spanish spice rub 
*I never measure this out.  I just line the spices up on the counter and sprinkle it all on.  Here are the measurements so you have an idea of how much of each to shake over the chicken breasts!  If you do want to measure, just mix the following ingredients in a small bowl.
3 T paprika
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground mustard
2 t ground fennel seeds (if I don't have the ground ones I just sprinkle some whole ones on the chicken)
2 t ground pepper
2 t kosher salt

8 thinly sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast
olive oil to coat chicken
spanish spice rub (above)

1.  Brush chicken with olive oil.
2.  Rub spice run on both sides of chicken breast and place on a plate.
3.  Heat the grill to medium for at least 10 minutes before using. Cook chicken over medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side (adjust time depending on thickness of chicken! I like my chicken thin so it cooks really fast.)
4.  Serve with mustard green onion sauce.

Prep ahead:  Prepare the sauce and season the chicken the night before!  It takes less than 15 minutes to prep this dish and 15 minutes to grill the next day!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

homemade pancake mix

We love having pancake breakfasts on the weekends.  I am not in any way, shape or form a morning person so this homemade pancake mix is perfect for me.  By prepping this mix ahead of time I  save myself the trouble of fumbling with the flour, sugar, baking powder, etc during the ridiculously early hours of the morning. I get right down to heating up my griddle and mixing up the batter.  Homemade pancakes are on the table in less than 10 minutes. When it comes time to mix the batter, I usually make twice as much.  This way I can freeze a bunch of pancakes in a ziploc bag.  Heat them in the microwave for about 25 seconds on busy weekday mornings!


  • To make pancake mix:
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • * I usually store the mix in a ziploc bag or mason jar.  Keeps for about 6 months.

  • To make batter:
  • 1 cup pancake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (add up to a 1/4 cup more if the batter seems to be too thick)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T butter (to grease griddle)


  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients for the pancake mix.  Mix well.  Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.
  2. To prepare pancakes: In a bowl, combine egg,  milk and vanilla. Whisk in 1 cup pancake mix. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a lightly greased hot griddle; turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes. Cook until second side is golden brown

I love my Cuisinart Griddler.  It is a panini maker and a flat griddle.  I make 12 pancakes at a time on this thing!

Friday, May 21, 2010

semi-homemade alphabet soup

I guess this is not the most weather appropriate post, given it is 72 degrees here in North Kingstown and it's not even 9:00 yet!  I must have been channelling Sandra Lee on Monday when I decided to make this soup.  It's not her recipe but it is along the same lines as most of her recipes:  half store bought/half homemade.   If you don't have time to make chicken stock, this soup is perfect, no matter what the weather is!

I love to make soup on the weekend and serve it for lunch during the week.  This soup contains protein, vegetables and a carbohydrate.   It's easy to heat up and quick to serve during all the craziness mid-day brings.  My kids have been eating soup since they could chew and swallow a cheerio.  When they were babies and beginning to eat soft foods, I used to just drain the broth for them and let them have at it.  Now, I give them those sip-a-bowls with the built in straw to drink the broth.  If I need to pack their lunch, I give them soup in those wide mouth small thermoses and it stays warm for up to 4 hours.

alphabet soup
*I feel like I never measure while making this soup.  You really can't mess up this recipe.

1 all natural rotisserie chicken, cut up**
2T olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic, minced
4 carrots (or more), chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
a handful of chopped spinach or escarole (optional)
3 T fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
8 cups of chicken broth (I use Natures Promise brand)
1/2 cup alphabet pasta, orzo, or brown rice (I use Eden organics vegetable alphabets)
salt and pepper to taste
Optional Seasonings: You can also add sage and/or thyme...I just don't because my kids happen to not like the flavor!
**I have also made this using raw chicken breasts.  Just cut them up and bring them to a boil in the broth.  Be sure to boil for a few minutes even after they are cooked through!

In a large soup pot saute onion, garlic, carrots, celery, spinach, parsley and bay leaves in the olive oil stirring often until vegetables are a little tender.  Add broth and chicken and simmer on the stove for about an hour or until the vegetables are as tender as you want.  Add the alphabets (or orzo, rice, etc) and allow them to cook through until tender (about 10-15 minutes).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Soup only gets better when left in the fridge for a couple of days.  I also freeze mine in those plastic "Gladware" containers.  Keeps for 4 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer!
She gets into her food.  I think that's a "C" on her cheek and onion in her hair.
Even Hank got to enjoy some.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

mini meat loaves

***This recipe can be baked as a regular loaf as well.

I've never been a fan of meat loaf.  I'm not sure what is so different about this recipe but I love it.  My friend Sarah once told me she was going home to "cook in a cup" with her girls.  They had received a kids cookbook that came with 6 silicone cups.  The book is made up of quick meals and treats kids can cook in the cups.  Thanks to my online shopping compulsion,  the cookbook and the cups arrived on my doorstep less than two days later.  It is so cute!!! The author is  a professionally trained french chef so all of the recipes are simple, delicious and kid friendly!  And most importantly, many of them can be prepped ahead.

The book comes with 6 silicone cups which isn't enough.  I bought 12 more to eliminate the need to bake multiple batches of things.  No time for that.
My only major complaint about the recipe is that you need to break out your food processor or blender.  Other than that, the recipe is super simple.

Ingredients for 12 meatloaves:
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 carrot,  chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb ground beef or turkey (the pic shows them made with turkey)
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup tomato paste (or ketchup)
2 T worcestershire sauce
1/8 t dried oregano
1 egg
pinch of salt and pepper

1.  In a food processor combine onion, carrot, garlic and parmesan cheese.  Process until finely chopped.
2.  Pour mixture into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients.  Mix until well combined.
3.  Spoon the meat mixture into the cups, filling them to the top, or shape into a loaf and place in a 9 X 11 pan.
4.  At this point you can put it all in the fridge and save it to be baked at dinner time.  Or bake the cups on a baking sheet at 350 for 20 minutes.  (If baking the loaf, bake at 350 for 1 hour).

Prep Ahead:  Prepare the meat loaves the night before and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

easy prep ahead chicken enchiladas

I came across this recipe about 10 years ago and since then have passed it on countless times.  We once hosted a Mexican themed party where we served these as the main dish. One of the guests said it best, "When I order enchiladas in a restaurant I want them to taste like this." I couldn't agree more!  I actually don't order enchiladas in a restaurant anymore because I am usually disappointed after comparing them to this recipe.

The whole recipe takes about 15 minutes to assemble.  I usually put it together the night before and then bake it about 40 minutes before I want to serve it.  It calls for cooked shredded chicken.  I usually buy one of those pre-cooked, all natural rotisserie chickens at our local market and cut the chicken up into small pieces.

for filling:
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut up
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup salsa (If you prefer the filling to be less creamy add about 1/4 cup more salsa. I use Natures Promise Organic brand)
1/2 of an 8 oz block of cream cheese (I use the reduced fat one)

For assembly:
1 pack small flour  tortillas
1/2 cup shredded cheddar for topping
1 jar salsa (16 oz) for topping and tortilla dredging

1.  Add all ingredients for filling in a skillet and cook until the cheeses are melted and all ingredients are combined. (about 5 minutes or less).
2.  Pour 1/2 jar of salsa on a piece of tinfoil, coat both sides of a flour tortilla with a little salsa (almost like you are painting each tortilla) and spoon a scant amount (about 1/3 cup) of chicken mixture onto tortilla.  Roll up and place in a greased 9 X 13 baking dish.
3.  Repeat with the rest of the tortillas.  You will end up with 8-10 enchiladas.
4.  Use the remaining 1/2 jar of salsa to drizzle over enchiladas in pan.  Sprinkle them with the 1/2 cup cheese.
5.  At this point you could either cover them with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or bake them at 350 degrees, uncovered for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through.

Prep Ahead:  Make the filling and prepare the enchiladas the night before.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  Easy entertaining recipe!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

greek chicken

I like to call myself the sous chef in the summertime.  Grilling is a must when the weather gets warmer.  I take some time the night before to marinate, season and prepare whatever it is we're having and when Mike gets home around 6ish, he cooks it on the grill.  It's a great system.  If I actually knew how to turn on the grill, I might even attempt to cook it myself.  

If grilling requires too much "stand over" time, you could easily bake this chicken at 350 for about 40 minutes (discard excess marinade).

Don't be worried about the yogurt and feta overpowering this dish.  I dislike yogurt and am not a huge fan of feta but love the flavor combination in this marinade!


  • 1 (8 ounce) container fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese with basil and sun-dried tomatoes (it is sold in this flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces


  1. In a ziploc bag, mix the yogurt, feta cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place the chicken in the bag, and "smoosh around" to coat chicken and mix ingredients. Cover, and marinate 4 hours in the refrigerator.  I have let it sit overnight and it comes out great.  I was worried about the lemon "cooking" the chicken, but it was fine.
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
  3. Grill chicken on the prepared grill until the it is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Prep Ahead:  Mix marinade the night before and leave in fridge!