Archive for Main Dishes

Healthier Habits

Hubby had some not-so-good news last week when he went for his doctor appointment. He was told he is pre-diabetic, which wasn’t all that surprising. Like many of us, he has been battling his weight since retiring from the Navy.

At one time we kept a very healthy diet. Lots of white meat, veggies and no sugars. Over the last few years those habits had slipped away. Time was a big factor, we were both working long hours and then my medical issues kept me off my feet for any period of time.

Well, now its time to pay the piper. First thing I did was as my food friends, whom I’ve been chatting with online for almost 20 years, for suggestions and advice. As always, they came thru with some tried and true lifestyle changes.

This past week I worked hard at making healthier dinners that are filling. First up was Chicken in a Summer Squash Sauce, served over brown rice.

I went looking for a recipe that included chicken and zucchini since that was what I had on hand. After looking at several for inspiration I ended up going a different direction with it.

Chicken in a Summer Squash Sauce
Serves 6

12 oz Chicken Tenders
2 tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp *Ancho Chili Powder
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
Ground Pepper
1/2 tsp Chili Pepper Flakes
1 small Sweet Onion
4 Cloves Garlic (more or less to taste)
1 Yellow Squash
1 Zucchini
1 15 oz can Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Combine seasonings in a small bowl. Sprinkle half over chicken tenders, reserve remaining.

Chop onion, garlic, squash, zucchini and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add tomatoes and reserved seasonings. Pulse to desired texture.

In a large skillet heat olive oil over med-high heat. Brown chicken on all sides, set aside. Add sauce to pan and bring to a simmer. Add chicken to sauce, bring back to a simmer and cover. Cook on low for 45 minutes.

Serve over brown rice.

In a large skillet heat olive oil med-high heat. Brown chicken tenders on all sides, remove to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Hoisin Glazed Pork Tenderloin

This is a two part meal. The first part is the glazed tenderloin and the second, the tenderloin is reincarnated into a cold noodle salad. I cannot say which dish I prefer, they are both tasty and often requested by my menfolk.

Hoisin Glazed Pork Tenderloin

1 pound butternut squash — peeled and cubed in 1″ pieces
1 pound snow peas, trimmed
8 whole cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, chopped fine
salt and pepper
2 pounds pork tenderloin — (2 one pound pieces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Preheat oven to 375. Pour the olive oil in the bottom of a large, rimmed cookie sheet. Scatter the squash and garlic onto the pan. Mix rosemary, salt and pepper: rub onto pork. Place in pan with squash. Roll the pork over so that it has a light sheen of the oil.

Roast 25 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter the snow peas. Brush pork, snow peas and squash with the Hoisin sauce. Continue roasting, about 15 minutes, until pork reaches an internal temperature of 140.

Remove from oven, lightly tent with foil and let set 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with peas, squash, garlic and pan juices.

Reserve one of the pieces of pork for the Pork and Soba Salad, recipe below.


Pork and Soba Noodles

Amount Measure Ingredient — Preparation Method
——– ———— ——————————–
10 ounces soba noodles
12 ounces snow peas, trimmed
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Red Pepper flakes – to taste
3 whole carrots — peeled and shredded
1 whole red and or yellow bell pepper — julienned
3 whole scallion — cut lengthwise and into 2″ pieces
1 pound pork tenderloin — cooked per Hoisin Pork recipe

In a large pot bring the snow peas, one tablespoon of salt and water to a boil. Add noodles, cooking according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water.

In a large bowl, whisk together hoisin, lime juice, oil and red pepper flakes; season lightly with salt and pepper. Add peas, noodles, carrots, bell pepper and scallions. Toss.

Thinly slice reserved pork, cutting each slice in half crosswise. Add to bowl with noodles; toss well. Serve at room temp or chilled.

Braciole…and I did it my way


Some recipes are not just black and white words. They are full of heritage and evoke strong memories, even when you just say the name. Braciole is one of those. The ‘recipe’ for how to make this Italian dish varies from region to region and family member to family member. Some folks swear it is beef, sliced thin, then browned and cooked in a red sauce. Others say it is rolled beef, stuffed. The stuffing varies from person to person, family to family.

Not being of Italian heritage I don’t have those family traditions to draw on for this dish, only what I’ve tasted and seen and how I like it.

I engaged hubby’s assistance in the project. Since the flank steak needed to be pounded flat his muscles came in handy. I would have included a picture of him in the gallery but the only one I was able to snap was him flipping me the bird when he didn’t appreciate my sweet natured and loving correction when I thought he was going to put cooking twine in the garbage disposal.

While he flattened the flank steak I assembled the stuffing. Then he took over the photgrapher’s duties while I stuffed it, rolled it and made the sauce. Twenty-seven years of marriage and, other than the occasional flipping of the bird or sailor word, we work well together in the kitchen.


1 beef flank steak (1-1/2 pounds)
salt and pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup day old bread crumbs (I had a partial loaf of roasted garlic bread in the freezer that I used)
1/4 cup milk
4 oz pancetta, diced
1/4 cup onion, small dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch spinach, stemmed and chifanade (rolled and cut into thin ribbons)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated provolone

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
4 oz tomato paste
1 cup red wine, such as merlot
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Spaghetti (optional, cooked according to package directions)
Grated Parmesan

Flatten steak to an even 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, set aside. In a large bowl mix bread crumbs and milk. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet (I use a 5 qt chicken fryer). Add pancetta and cook until crisp. Lower heat and add a pinch of salt & pepper, 1/4 cup of onion and a minced garlic clove. Cook until translucent. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add the pancetta mixture to the bread crumbs and toss lightly. Add the cheeses and toss again. Spoon over beef to within 1 in. of edges; press down. Roll up jelly-roll style, tightly, with the grain of the meat, starting with a long side; tie off at 1 inch intervals with cooking twine.

In the same pan that you cooked the pancetta in add the remaining olive oil and, over medium-high heat, brown the rolled beef on all sides. If using a slow cooker put the browned beef in there, if cooking stove top remove it to a plate and cover with foil. Over medium heat add the onion and cook until tender (add to the slow cooker if using, otherwise leave in the pan.) Add the tomato paste and cook until it starts to darken. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, being sure to scrape up all the good brown bits of flavor. Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano, salt and pepper. Slow cooker method: add all of this to the slow cooker, cover, on low for 8 hours. Stove top method: add back the rolled beef. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 70-80 minutes or until meat is tender.

Remove meat from sauce and discard string. Cut into thin slices; serve with the sauce, spaghetti and Parmesan.

Yield: 6 servings.

Spicy Ragu Pasta

I was browsing thru the February issue of Bon Appetit magazine and came across a recipe for Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragu that looked really tasty. I decided to mix it up a bit and use up some leftover pork roast from dinner the other night and make it into my own Spicy Pork Ragu. Hubby never even realized he was eating leftovers! Served with a salad and garlic bread it made a great winter meal.

Here is what I ended up doing:

1 large onion, quartered
2 carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, then chunked
6 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup red wine (I had merlot)
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pound sweet turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound leftover cooked pork roast, pulsed in the processor
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 pound rigatoni or penne
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan


Heat oil a large, deep skillet (I have a 5 qt chicken fryer) over medium heat. Pulse onion, carrot, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and parsley in a food processor until VERY finely chopped. Add to pan with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute until veggies start to get soft.
Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add wine and cook until about half of the wine has cooked off. Add pork and tomato sauce. Simmer mostly covered (I use a splatter screen and put the lid on top of that) until it tastes really freaking good, about 2 to 3 hours.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Add 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce; stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan and increase heat to medium and continue stirring, adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Serve top with additional Parmesan.

Note: You could toss the pasta and sauce together and serve that way. I prefer not to because hubby likes his pasta well sauced and I prefer mine lightly sauced.

Taco Empanadas

These are absolutely not authentic. The filling is a simple taco filling stuffed into a simple biscuit and baked. The result is heavenly :) And this recipe just screams to be played with, modified, changed in any way that your heart (and taste buds) might desire.

Taco Empanadas

2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (or other pepper as desired for heat levels)
1 lb ground beef
2 tbsp chili powder (I prefer ancho)
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 4oz can diced chilis
1 can black beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 recipe for 16 biscuts, prepared (or 16 canned)
8 oz grated cheddar cheese
Sour cream and salsa for serving

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onions with crushed red pepper and salt and pepper until the onion starts to get color. Add the peppers and continue to cook until onion is cooked thru. Add the ground beef, chili powder, oregano, Worcestershire sauce and canned chilis. Brown meat thoroughly. Stir in the black beans and corn and let simmer 10 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.
Roll out each biscuit to about 5” round. Mound taco filling into the center, top with a small amount of grated cheese. Fold in half, pressing edges firmly to seal. Place another small amount of grated cheese on top. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving a 2” gap or so.

Bake 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Grandma’s Sloppy Joes & Brocco-slaw

With Christmas coming thoughts turn to family and friends and happy memories of times gone by. Hubby came from a large, boisterous family that loved to spend time together and eating was always a big part of their gatherings. Whenever we would come to town his Grandma Cord would gather both sides of his family and my brother at her house: siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces.

On the menu was Grandma’s Sloppy Joes and Brocco-slaw. Whenever I make these dishes it always takes me back to that warm, fuzzy feeling that was present at her house. I count myself very lucky to have been brought into his family and be a part of those long ago gatherings.

Grandma’s Sloppy Joes

Serves: 6

1 Pound Ground Beef
1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
1/2 Cup Chopped Bell Pepper
2 Cloves Garlic (crushed)
1/3 Cup Catsup
1/4 Cup Taco Sauce
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 Teaspoon Hot Sauce (optional)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
6 Hamburger Buns (split and toasted)
6 Slices American Cheese (optional)


Brown beef with onions, bell pepper and garlic. Drain grease. Add catsup, taco sauce, worcestershir sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve on buns with cheese.

Note: Great when simmered in a crockpot all day. Can be made in the morning, simmered all day and then enjoyed.

serves 4

3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
garlic and pepper seasoning, to taste
1 pound of shredded broccoli
2 carrots, shredded

Combine dressing ingredients and chill for at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to meld. Toss with shredded cabbage and carrots and serve.

Note: I unfortunately didn’t get Grandma’s dressing recipe but this is one I winged on the fly and it is very good!

Aunt Jopi’s Polish Sausage and Mashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

I love a recipe that has been handed down thru generations and has strong memories attached to it. That just the thought of making it brings on a smile and starts a “remember when” conversation. This is one of those recipes. But first
I have a confession to make. I am a picky eater. A VERY picky eater. I am not a big fan of veggies. We grew up eating mostly canned veggies and that could be why, but whatever the reason, I still don’t get very excited by the veggies. When I plan a meal the veggies tend to be the last item included and the one I struggle to choose. Give me red meat and starches any day.

You can imagine my dismay when my great Aunt Jopi (pronounced Yopee) told me that she was serving brussel sprouts for dinner. Hubby and I were staying with her while we looked for an apartment after he was transferred to San Diego. I had to be polite and eat some. And guess what? I liked it. If you are hesitant to serve them to a picky eater this is the way to do it. Unless you tell them they probably won’t know brussel sprouts are in there.

This dish is a one pot wonder and easy peasy. You quarter the brussel sprouts, peel and dice the potatoes and garlic, cut up a Polish sausage and put it all in one pot. Cover with cold water, add salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Then you drain, remove the sausage and mash the rest with milk and butter. Serve.

Aunt Jopi’s Sausage & Brussel Sprouts
Serves: 6

1 Pound Polish Sausage Links (cut in 2 inch chunks)
3 Pounds Potatoes (peeled and cubed)
1/2 Large Onion (diced)
2 Cloves Garlic (sliced)
1 Pound Brussels Sprouts (cleaned and quartered)
Salt And Pepper (to taste)
1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
1/2 Cup Milk (approximate)


Place all ingredients in a Dutch oven. Cover with water, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered, about 20 minutes, until tender. Remove sausage, set aside and keep warm. Drain potatoes and sprouts. Mash together, add butter and milk to desired consistency. Serve with sausage.

Happy Halloween! Dead Man Meatloaf

With our small family of three and moving all over the country while hubby served his 20 years in the Navy, we tried hard to start our own holiday traditions. We wanted to add those special memories that we all look back on and remember, warmly, of days gone by. For Halloween we have our traditional dinner of Dead Man Meatloaf with a side of roasted brains.

It’s very easy to make. Use your favorite 3 pound meatloaf recipe (see below for my favorite recipe) and shape into a man. Using veggies for the eyes, mouth and buttons, roast in a 350 degree oven about one hour, until the internal temp reads 160 degrees. You may need to foil the arms and legs if they start to brown to fast. Once done cover lightly with foil for 15 minutes or so to allow the juices to redistribute. Just before serving put a small amount of ketchup on the belly and insert a knife.

To make the roasted brains, cut up one head of cauliflower. In a bowl toss the flowerettes, along with 6 or so cloves of garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread all of it out in one layer on a large baking sheet. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, checking about half way and tossing the cauliflower so that it roasts evenly.


2 pounds ground beef
1 pound mild turkey sausage
1/2 cup tortilla chip crumbs
1/2 cup salsa (medium)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
salt & pepper (go lightly on the salt as both the tortilla chips and the cheese are salty)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350

Put all ingredients into a large bowl. Mix gently with hands (or dough hook on a KitchenAid stand mixer) until thoroughly mixed. Be careful not to over mix, as this will create too dense of a texture.

On a lightly greased foil lined baking sheet form meatloaf into desired shape. Roast approximately one hour, until internal temp is 160. Leftovers make amazing sandwiches!

Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken and Butternut Squash

I love the desert, but in the summer it is HOT. Not hot but HOT. Frying an egg on the sidewalk hot is downright chilly compared to how hot we get. This presents a problem with cooking, in that it makes the air conditioner work harder than ever. This past summer I experimented with a few new slow cooker ideas and one of my favorites was simply boneless chicken breasts, whole garlic cloves, salt, pepper and a splash (maybe a tablespoon) of balsamic vinegar. On low for 4 hours and bam…chicken is moist, tender and very flavorful.

Now that fall is approaching I decided to shake it up a bit. I started with the boneless breasts as I described above, then added a peeled and cubed butternut squash (in 1 inch cubes). Topped that with fresh sage. On low for 7 hours and voila, dinner is ready.

Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken with Butternut Squash

I mashed some of the squash for me, hubby preferred his cubed.

Spanish Rice

The other day I was in the mood for comfort food.  One of hubby’s favorite comfort foods is the Spanish Rice that his Grandma Rose used to make.  It’s an easy recipe, and one that I know by heart.

I set about making it, not thinking too hard.  Cooked the bacon, removed it, sauteed the onions, peppers and garlic, browned the ground beef with Worcestershire sauce and chili powder.  Then I added rice, canned tomatoes, water and oregano.  Brought it to a boil, reduced to a simmer, covered and waited.

About 15 minutes in I checked it (I like to make sure the tomatoes aren’t scorching) and when I lifted the lid I knew immediately something was wrong.  It looked DRY.  I checked my measuring cup,  yes, I’d dumped the water in.  The tomatoes, too.  What had I done?  Went to my trusty MasterCook program and looked up the recipe and realized immediately what I had done.  I’d added 2 cups of rice instead of 1.  Oops.

I quickly dug around my cupboard for another can of tomatoes, added more water and seasonings.  Brought it back up to a boil, back down to a simmer and let it cook for awhile, hoping I hadn’t ruined it.  About 15 minutes later I checked it and, whew, it was ok.  The rice was a bit mushy and it didn’t have quite the flavor oomph it usually does, but it was still a good dinner!  I served it with corn muffins and refried beans.

Spanish Rice

And it was a good thing, too.  Someone hubby works with had seen my FaceBook post about Spanish Rice for dinner and he was sure looking forward to it when he came home.


Serves: 6


  • 1/2 Pound Ground Beef
  • 1/2 Pound Bacon (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Medium Onion (sliced thinly)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Ancho Chili Powder
  • 1 15 Ounce Can Stewed Tomatoes
  • Salt And Peppper (to taste)
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Long-Grain Rice
  • 1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese, Shredded


In a skillet brown meat with green pepper, onion, and garlic in a bit of water until tender. Stir in seasoning, rice, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and water. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook for about 30 minutes or until rice is done. Top with cheese, allowing time to melt.