My husband and I always order paella when we go to tapas restaurants. This year I wanted to try to make one at home. On New Year’s Eve, we stopped at Sur La Table and bought a paella pan ($19.99). I have never made paella so I went online and read over several recipes made both with and without a paella pan. I picked the ingredients we liked and went shopping. The challenge came in figuring out the preparation and cooking time because we did not use the same ingredients from any one recipe. So I winged it.  And guess what? It turned out great!!!



1 tablespoon of olive oil

3 cups of chicken stock

1 box (12oz. package) of Valencia rice (I used Goya Brand)


1 onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 lbs. sausage*

1 1bs. raw shrimp

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tomatoes, chopped in chunky pieces

2 tsp dried Rosemary

1 tbsp. paprika

Notes: I bought a bag of frozen peas, but there was no room left in the pan! Next time, I might add asparagus in place of one of the peppers.

*We used smoked sausage, but next time I think we will try a jalapeno sausage or Spanish Chorizo to give the dish a little more kick.


It is important to have everything cut and ready to go before you get started. I just put them in containers and stacked them up in the fridge. Defrost shrimp if frozen by running under cold water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook sausage separately in a frying pan so you can drain any grease. Put aside.

Place paella pan on stove over two burners. Add peppers, onions and garlic to pan and sauté 3 to 5 mins until soft.

Remove pan from heat and stir in package of rice until it is mixed in evenly.

Stir in tomatoes, sausage and broth and return pan to heat on simmer for 15 minutes.

Add shrimp, rosemary, paprika and salt to taste

Transfer pan to oven – uncovered. (I put the pan on a cookie sheet in case it overflowed.) Cook 15 minutes until almost all the liquid is absorbed but rice is still al dente.

Remove from oven and cover with foil so it can finish cooking – 5 to 10 minutes.

Serves four (or two very hungry people with leftovers for lunch the next day).


Leave a comment

Layered Greek Dip

I was looking for a new appetizer on – you guessed it – Pinterest.  I love hummus and feta cheese and when I saw this recipe for a 5 layer Greek Dip, I knew I had to try it. Of course, I could not follow a recipe without making my own changes. I added tomatoes and a yellow pepper (for color). It was fresh and new and a hit at the party. Looks like it is going in the rotation!


2 (10 oz.) containers of hummus (or equivalent of homemade) I used Sabra’s Roasted Garlic Hummus

4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

1 small cucumber, seeded but not peeled

1 medium YELLOW pepper

½ pint grape tomatoes

1 small can of sliced black olives, drained

Fresh dill


Chop cucumber, pepper and tomatoes into small pieces (1/4 inch). You want equal parts of each one for the dip.

Mix the hummus and spread on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

Sprinkle even amounts of cucumber, pepper, tomatoes and feta on top of hummus. Add black olives to taste and top with fresh dill.

I served the dip with pita chips and pretzel crisps. The dip itself is gluten free, but my dippers were not.

Leave a comment

Chicken and Tomato Pasta with a Pepper Garlic Gravy

While looking for a new recipe, I found a delicious looking picture on Pinterest.  The recipe sounded as delicious as the picture, but too complicated. I simplified it and found my new favorite recipe! It is chicken, pasta and tomatoes with a pepper and garlic gravy. You have to try it!

Cook and prep time: 30 minutes

Serves 4


1 lbs. chicken breast tenders

2 tsp. dried Rosemary (or 1 tsp of fresh)

2 tsp. black pepper

Juice of one lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tbsp. of flour

2 cups of chicken broth

1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed

1 pint of grape tomatoes

Fresh parsley

1 lb. of angel hair pasta


Cut chicken breasts tenders into small pieces. In a medium bowl, mix chicken pieces with Rosemary, pepper and lemon juice.

Heat up a large pan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add chicken and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to pan and sauté garlic one minute. Pour in a tbsp of flour to create a roux. Slowly add the rest of the flour and broth, stirring constantly, until you get a nice thick sauce.

Return chicken to pan and bring to a boil. Add cannellini beans and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve over prepared angel hair pasta and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

1 Comment

Cowboy Caviar

At a party several years ago, a friend brought this fresh and delicious appetizer. I asked her for the recipe and brought it to another party the next week. It has since become my signature dish and I am asked to make it all the time. The name “Cowboy Caviar” is rarely used when friends ask me to make an appetizer. They simply say, “Can you bring that corn and bean dip?” It also works as a great side dish!


1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of corn, drained
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped small
4 green onions, chopped small
2 avocados, also chopped into small pieces


½ cup chopped cilantro leaves

1 small red onion chopped small

1 small jalapeno, chopped small

*If you have it, add it. If not, it tastes just as good!

Mixed together and toss with a 1/2 package of Good Season’s Italian Dressing (dry mix), plus 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and 1/8 cup of vinegar. (In a pinch, you can use prepared Italian Dressing.)

Serve with Scoops or any nacho chip!

Leave a comment

Tortellini Soup

The cooler weather of the past week has encouraged me to bring out the hearty recipes. Normally I wouldn’t make comfort foods on 70 degree days, but after the hot summer we had, 70 degrees seems cold!

The first day it was cooler, my husband asked me to make Tortellini Soup. This is a simple recipe that I came up with several years ago with items I had on hand. It makes enough for five and leaves us with plenty of leftovers the next day. My family loves hearty bread with this soup and we pass the bread around for each of us to tear off our piece. Pared with a glass of wine, this meal is a cure for insomnia!


2 (28oz) cans of petite diced tomatoes

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 tbsp of dried Rosemary

2 (32oz) boxes of Fat Free Chicken Broth (or vegetable)*

16oz. of smoked sausage

1 package (18oz.) of frozen cheese tortellini

1 package (16oz) of frozen Italian green beans

* I like less broth and more items on my spoon! Feel free to add more broth.


Add tomatoes, garlic, Rosemary and Chicken broth to a large pot and bring to a boil.

In the meantime, cut sausage in ½ moons and brown in pan. Pour off grease and pat off excess on paper towels.

When soup is boiling, add sausage to pot and bring to boil again.

Add frozen tortellini and cook 10 minutes.

Add frozen green beans and return soup to boil one last time so everything is heated through.

Serve with hearty bread and enjoy!

Leave a comment

Mexican Jambalaya

The morning before our vacation, we were busy packing and getting our house ready to be empty for over a week. The refrigerator had to be emptied of all perishable items that would not last until we got home. My veggie bins were still full from our last trip to the farmers market and it seemed like such a sin to throw out good food.  Knowing we had to eat dinner that night anyway, I challenged myself to come up with a recipe that used up what I had in the house, tasted good and was not too time consuming to make.

I never know how a new recipe will turn out, especially when I am making it up as I go along.  I was prepared to order a pizza in case it was a flop, but I am happy to report that it was a success! Feel free to add or subtract from the recipe based on what you have at home. If I had a jalapeno on hand, I would have added one for a little heat.

Total cook time: 4 hours

Prep time unknown – I kept thinking of things to add as I went along!


3 pork loin chops – about 1 ½ lbs

1 large Vidalia onion

2 medium red bell peppers

1 medium zucchini, quartered

2 medium tomatoes, chopped in bite sized pieces including seeds

4-6 garlic cloves, minced

2 ears of fresh corn, cut off the cob

1 (14.5 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

¼ cup of dry white wine

1 (14.5 oz.) chicken broth

2 tsp. cumin

3 cups instant rice

Chopped cilantro


Cut pork chops, onion and red peppers into bite sized pieces.

Place in 6 quart crockpot along with garlic, white wine and cumin.

Mix evenly. Cook on High for 1 hour.

After one hour, add black beans, tomatoes, zucchini, corn and chicken broth.

Reduce temperature to Low and cook an additional 2 ½ hours.

Add instant rice and stir until evenly mixed.  Continue to cook on Low for another half hour.

Just before serving, stir in a handful of chopped cilantro.

Feeds a small army. Great for leftovers and freezes well!

Leave a comment

Pineapple Pork Chops

When my husband is out of town for a few days, my kids are fine with eating pancakes, mac and cheese or pizza bread for dinner. None of those things satisfy my definition of dinner so if he is gone for more than one night I need to make a real meal.

Coming up with a meal that pleases everyone is near impossible. However, all of my kids like pork, so that is my go-to meal when my husband travels. My kids love their dad’s grilled pork chops, but because I almost burned our house down with a grill grease fire 20 years ago, I don’t use the grill.

My improv pork chop dinner in a pan turned out much better than I expected and the kids loved it.


4 boneless pork loin chops

Lawry’s Sesame Ginger Marinade (or similar)

1 (8oz.) can Dole Pineapple Chunks and juice


Place pan on stove and turn on medium-high heat to warm up pan.

Pour marinade in shallow bowl and coat each side of pork chop.

Place in pan. Pork chop should sizzle in hot pan.

Turn pan to medium heat and cook pork chop 2 minutes on each side to seal in flavor.

Add pineapple chunks and juice.

Turn down heat to low and cover pan with lid. Cook an additional 20-25 minutes depending on thickness of pork chop. Internal temperature should read 160 to 170 degrees.

While pork chops were cooking, I made a rice pilaf and a quick Caesar salad. Dinner was on the table in 30 minutes. Not gourmet, but quick and easy and so much better than pizza bread!

Leave a comment

Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips

After spending time at our local farmer’s market, I came home with 6 giant zucchinis. I love zucchini, but have had some difficulty growing them the past several years. When I saw a man at the market pouring bushels of giant zucchini on the table, I knew I need to make zucchini bread.

When I got home at 10:00am, my two daughters were still asleep. My son was sitting in his pajamas in front of the TV playing Xbox. I turned off the TV, woke up the girls and told everyone we were making zucchini bread. I can’t tell you how thrilled everyone was with my idea!

I gave everyone assignments – one was wet ingredients, one was dry and one was the zucchini shredder. I ran back and forth between kids to help where I could. I planned to make 8 loaves of bread (and I only used 3 of those giant zucchinis!) and I was very thankful for our kitchen remodel last year. We had a large workspace which quickly became a mess. My oldest daughter went to get her iPod and soon the kitchen was filled with music, laughter and baking ingredients.

Side note: Always explain abbreviations to your children before having them help in the kitchen. We threw out two of the eight loaves because my daughter thought “tsp” was tablespoon!

I found this recipe on Pinterest, but knew if my kids were going to eat it, I would have to make it a little less healthy. Adding 2 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips made it more kid-friendly.


1 ½ cups of shredded zucchini, pressed in paper towel to eliminate moisture

2 large eggs

¼ cup of plain yogurt

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

6 tablespoons of melted butter

1 ½ cups of granulated sugar

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of allspice

2 tablespoons (or more) mini chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a bread pan with cooking spray. I used disposable pans that were 8 x 3 5/8. (Save yourself some stress and place a baking sheet under the bread pans. I had some overflow and had to clean out my oven!)

Clean zucchini and chop off ends. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds. No need to peel. Place in food processor with shredding blade. When done, place on paper towel and squeeze out any moisture. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Add zucchini.

Place butter in bowl and melt in microwave for 30 seconds.

In smaller bowl, add sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice and butter. Mix until blended. Fold into zucchini mixture. (Or if you are like my kids, just dump it all in the bowl and mix – my way sounds so much nicer!)

If making kid-friendly, add two tablespoons of mini chocolate chips and mix into batter.

Transfer batter to bread pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool one hour before serving.

Leave a comment

Easy Italian Sausage with Potatoes and Onions

As a working mom, I am always looking for quick and easy meals. Last week, I had an hour and a half to shower, cook dinner and eat. Normally we would order pizza or have sandwiches on those kind of nights. Honestly, that gets really old. This meal took 15 minutes to prep and 45 minutes to cook. I had time to actually sit down and chew my food instead of inhaling it. The house smelled wonderful while it was cooking and everything tasted great!

I was in such a hurry that I only took a picture of the finished product. It was simple, so I am sure you don’t need the step by step pictures this time!


6 Italian sauages

2 tbsp. dried oregano

6 cloves of garlic – minced

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 large Vidalia onion

6 medium potatoes


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Brown sausage in pan on stove. (Five minutes on each side).

While sausage is browning, cut potatoes and onions in bite sized pieces (don’t bother to peel the potatoes!)

Place potatoes and onions in a gallon zip bag with garlic, oregano and oil. Seal bag and shake to mix evenly.

Pour contents into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Put browned sausage on top of potato mixture.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes.

It really is that simple. We served the sausage on rolls, but you can save the carbs and eat them without the bread.

The next day:

I had leftover potatoes and onions and decided to use them up the following morning for breakfast. I warmed up the leftovers on the stove and then scrambled in two eggs.  (I would have included the leftover sausage, but my husband finished it off as a late night snack.) Simple and delicious. My favorite kind of meal!

Leave a comment

Crockpot Chili

When I was a kid, we had chili out of a can. As a mom, I have to admit that serving canned chili over noodles is a quick dinner. However, it doesn’t look very appetizing and I am sure it is full of sodium and other junk. What is the mystery meat they use in canned chili? We probably don’t want to know.

Years ago, I set out to find a chili recipe. There are thousands of variations of chili out there, but nothing that really appealed to me. I started with a basic recipe and then added and subtracted according to our tastes. Here is what evolved over the years. Feel free to change it to suit your tastes.

Makes two meals for my family of 5

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time in crockpot: 4 hours


1 1/2 lbs. of meat – I used ground chuck this time, but I have used sirloin cubes, boneless chicken breast or ground chicken

2 large green peppers, chopped

1 large Vidalia onion, chopped

2 (28oz.) cans diced tomatoes with juice

3 (15oz.) cans of beans (I used 2 dark kidney and one pinto, but any kind will work)

4 tbsp. cumin

3 tbsp. chili powder

This has enough spice for my kids. My husband usually spices his bowl up a little more with Tabasco or diced jalapeno peppers.


If using ground meat (or chicken), brown meat on stove until cooked through. Drain and set aside. (When I make the chili with sirloin cubes, I just put it in the crockpot raw. It eliminates a step.)

Cut the peppers and onion in bite-sized pieces and add to 6 quart crockpot. (If you are really organized, you can cut the peppers and onions up the night before and refrigerate them. Some cooks may even have them cut and frozen to grab and go, but I am not that prepared.)

Drain and rinse all cans of beans and pour into crockpot.

Add meat on top of beans.

Add diced tomatoes and juice to crockpot.

Sprinkle cumin and chili powder on top of all and mix all together.

Cook in crockpot for 4 hours on low if you browned meat first. If using cubed sirloin, cook 4 hours on high.

Serve over Ditalini noodles or with a side of cornbread.

%d bloggers like this: