Category Archives: Meals

Light and Fresh Spring Salads

Spring is finally here and it’s time to start thinking salads.  Be it a new take on a vegetable salad or the melding of fruit and veggie into a refreshing plateful of healthiness, I really like mixing up the flavor combinations in a salad.  Now that’s it warming up outside I’m craving fresh and light salads.  I’m sharing a few new ones that I’m adding to my rotation.

I have a couple that look like they could do double-time as either a robust side dish or a light but filling entree.  I’ve also been looking at a fresh take on broccoli salad and a new way with melon.  Let’s start with this refreshing looking fruit salad.

Mojito Fruit Salad

I’ve been seeing this Mojito Fruit Salad all over Pinterest lately.  I love fruit salads and I think the addition of lime simple syrup and mint will give it that extra little kick.  Of course you can add rum too for a little more of an adult flavor experience.  I could see this one making it’s way into the 4th of July menu.  With the peaches and nectarines it would be perfect during the hot summer months.

Broccoli Grape Salad

Another fresh take on a traditional salad is this Broccoli Grape Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing.  I’m sure we’ve all had multiple versions of broccoli salad but I haven’t had one with lemon dressing before.  I like the addition of grape and cucumber to this salad and I do think the lemon dressing will give it a nice tangy flavor.  This would be good to make at the beginning of the weekend to complement both a sandwich at lunch and a grilled chicken breast or steak at dinner.

Another use for the mint from the Mojito Salad would be in this Shaved Melon Salad.  It looks simple enough as it’s just thin strips of honeydew and cantaloupe melons.  These are dressed with an olive oil, sherry, honey, lemon mixture.  I think the flavor combination could be interesting so I plan on trying it when the melons are in season.

I have also been looking at a couple of heartier salads that are still light.  The first is an Orzo Salad with Chickpeas and Cucumbers.  I like chick peas in salads; they have a slightly nutty flavor and chewy texture that makes the salad filling but still healthy.  The orzo would add to that heartiness factor, but in a light way.  The cucumbers and feta cheese round it out nicely to make it a great option for a light but hearty warm weather main dish.

Farro, Cherry, Walnut Salad

This final salad is one that I’m going to try sooner rather than later.  I’ve only recently started using Farro and I think this Farro, Cherry, and Walnut Salad is great way to showcase this tasty grain.  The cherries would give it a nice pop of flavor with the walnuts and celery giving it a nice crunchy texture.

Now that it’s getting warmer out I’m ready to start lightening up the menu.  Do you change up your menu with the seasons or add some in-season produce to your recipes?  Until next time!


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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Meals


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Seafood Birthday Dinner

We’re coming up on my husband’s birthday and this year he’s requested a seafood themed dinner.  Seems easy enough, but there are a lot of recipes to choose from.  I would also like to try a few different things for him.  We eat Salmon weekly, so that one’s out.  Beyond that I have an ocean to choose from.  Let’s get started.

One recipe that I haven’t tried yet, but want to make, is crab cakes.  My trusty “Back to Basics” cookbook has a crab cake recipe and it looks delicious.  The only thing that’s a little off putting is the lengthy list of ingredients.  Knowing that I’ll be making a few different items makes me a little leery of anything that could be too time consuming.  I’ll keep it on the list for now.

Shrimp is usually a winner and I have just the recipe for it.  I made these Shrimp Puffs a while back and they were a huge hit!  They only require a few ingredients and they’re easy to make.  Plus, they make a lot.  You could easily fill up just on these puffs.  I’m thinking these are a definite yes.

Another option that I’m considering is a Seafood Alfredo with Homemade Pasta.  I’ve made pasta before so I know it’s pretty easy and I can make it in advance and freeze it so I’m not too overwhelmed on the day of the dinner.  This also allows me to mix up the seafood offerings.  I could have shrimp, scallops, calamari, or whatever else sounds good.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good Alfredo?

While we’re considering pasta dishes I should also think about a Homemade Pasta with Clam Sauce.  I’ve made this a few times, once for my mother-in-law’s birthday, and it’s excellent.  I’ve used the canned clams, I know fresh is better, but the taste is still great without the big price tag.  Oh, the decisions.

These are just a few of the recipes I’m choosing from.  I always like to make birthday dinners special and the menu planning is a big part of it.  So far, I’m planning on making around three main courses along with salad and side dish.  We’ll see what I end up with, but I know it’s going to be delicious!

Until next time!

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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Meals


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Pinterest Recipe Wins

I think we’ve all seen at least one or two of the blogs that feature Pinterest fails.  Indiscernible frosting jobs and exploding cake cups seem to be the norm.  Well, instead of talking about those areas I’d like to tell you about some of the Pinterest wins I’ve experienced.

I have tried quite a few recipes from Pinterest.  For the most part I’d say the majority turned out.  Now, that doesn’t mean I’d suggest all of them.  Some were just so-so, while some were awesome.  Below are the ones that I will definitely be making again.

Let’s start off with a drink win.  I made this Strawberry Sangria last Spring when we had both sets of parents over for a Sunday dinner.  Let me just say wow!  I couldn’t find the strawberry schnapps that was called for so I used watermelon schnapps instead.  I’d suggest this if you’re looking for something to jazz up your usual drink offerings.  Just be careful, it’s so good you’ll want more than just one glass.

Strawberry SangriaSource

This next recipe was a surprising win.  I made this Taco Pasta Bake for dinner one night not expecting too much.  I was wrong.  It had such a great flavor.  Even my husband, who can be a tough one to impress, commented on how good it was.  It was really easy to make too.  If you’re looking for something quick, easy, and delicious for dinner then you should try this.

This chicken recipe is probably one of the best recipes I’ve made.  Ever.  Kaytucky Chicken is a chicken breast, filled with a cream cheese, bacon, spring onion, and herb mixture.  Then it’s wrapped in puff pastry dough and baked in the oven.  If you’re looking for that recipe to impress, then look no further.  It takes a little time to get everything put together, but it’s well worth it.  My step-daughter is still asking when we can have this again.  That’s a sure sign of a winner!

One of my more recent recipe wins was Baked Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes.  I’ve made these twice and both times they were gone within a couple of hours.  I think some people are a bit hesitant to make donuts.  I’m here to say, “It’s time to make the donuts!”.  Donuts, especially the baked ones, are as easy as making muffins.  I have a mini donut baking pan so that’s what I use to make these.  Try them, you’ll love them!

Pumpkin Spice Donut HolesSource

Finally, we’ll wrap it up with a dessert that was a big win, Strawberry Lemonade Layer Cake.  It tastes exactly like you hope it tastes; it has the sweet tang of lemonade in the frosting combined with the strawberry cake and sliced strawberries on top, yum!  I made this over the summer.  It’s a perfect Spring/Summer dessert.  I highly recommend it.

Strawberry Lemonade Layer CakeSource

There you have it.  A selection of some Pinterest recipes that were wins.  I have others that I’ll share later, but these were some of the best ones to date.

What about you?  Have you tried a Pinterest recipe that was all you had hoped it would be?  Let’s hear about it!

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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Desserts, Meals


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Lazy Weekend Treats

It’s getting close to the weekend and we are plan-free for this one.  That means I can spend some time in the kitchen trying out some new recipes along with some tried and true favorites.  I’m thinking of a full meal menu plus some sweet treats to tide us over.  My best bet is a nice Saturday dinner, so that’s what I’ll plan for.

First up on my to-make list is a Butternut Squash Soup recipe from Ina Garten.  It’s in her Back to Basics cookbook.  I’ve made it numerous times, it’s super simple, and always a winner.  The most time consuming part for me is peeling the squash.  I am not a fan of curry so I omit it, but I don’t feel like the soup is lacking in flavor without it.  My plan with the soup is to let it be a starter for our Saturday dinner and the leftovers can be had for lunch on Sunday.

Next up, I am going to make a Chocolate Crescent Roll.  I’ve seen different versions of this all over Pinterest.  I’m going to use the canned crescent roll dough and dark chocolate bars for mine.  I may even add some peanut butter to a couple, just because.  Quick and easy!

Homemade chocolate crescent rollsSource

I also plan on making a dessert, or two. There are so many options to pick from and I’m on the fence about a few.  Do I want cake or cookies?  New recipe or tried and true recipe?  I’ve been trying a lot of new ones lately which I think is good.  I have quite a few cookies and bars that are still untested in my Fine Cooking Cookies magazine as well as some sweet treats in my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

Foolproof - Ina Garten

I have yet to make her Outrageous Brownie recipe, which is the one that she sold in the Barefoot Contessa store.  I am a huge fan of brownies, so I’m thinking this one is at the top of the list.  I should probably make those Friday night as the recipe makes a lot.

I’ll leave my last choice as a TBD.  I like to leave a little leeway in my baking plans for the weekend.  I never know when the mood will strike to make donuts or something, like it did last weekend.  They were excellent by the way.  Pumpkin donut holes rolled in a cinnamon sugar mix are easy and delicious.  Don’t miss out if you have a chance to make them.

Alright, what are your baking plans for this weekend?  Is anyone trying something new or even just looking forward to some baking time?  Let’s hear it.

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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in Desserts, Meals


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New Recipes For A Winter Birthday Dinner

We recently had my parent’s over to celebrate my Mom’s birthday.  She had only requested fish, but beyond that I was free to create the menu as I chose.  I knew right away that my main course would be salmon.

For Christmas my husband had given me the newest Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Foolproof.  In it she has a recipe called “hot smoked salmon” which I had tried recently.  It is delicious!  I knew it would be a hit.

Foolproof - Ina Garten

The salmon recipe is just the right balance between sweet and hot.  It calls for both white and brown sugar along with lemon zest and a healthy amount of fresh ground black pepper.  We have a cedar grilling plank, so the salmon was baked on that in the oven.  So good!

To round out the menu I had a traditional vegetable salad with chopped spinach, tomatoes, and cucumbers and rice pilaf with sauteed mushrooms made from scratch.  I used a basic Rice Pilaf recipe, then sauteed an 8 oz. package of fresh, sliced baby Bella mushrooms and incorporated it into the Pilaf.  I didn’t go overboard with my side dishes for the dinner because I wanted everyone to have room for this…

Stacey’s Recipes Cooking Tips

I had pinned this Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte recipe a while ago.  I knew I didn’t want to go with traditional cake and ice cream.  Then, as I was going through my recipe boards I saw this pin and knew it was the right choice.  Plus, my mom is a huge peanut butter and chocolate fan.  Let’s be real though, who isn’t?

I ended up making this dessert the day of the dinner, which means I was putting it in the freezer to set.  Luckily that worked out.  It was close though.  I was putting on the ganache topping only minutes before my parents arrived.  In the freezer it went again and it was perfectly set by the time we finished dinner.

This was one of my more favorite recent menus.   I would make any of these recipes again as they were all fairly easy and turned out wonderfully.  Let’s recap on the final menu.

Winter Birthday Dinner Menu

Dinner: Hot Smoked Salmon, Rice Pilaf With Sauteed Mushrooms, Garden Salad

Dessert: Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte

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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Desserts, Meals


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Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s just over three weeks until Thanksgiving.  Wow, time is flying by!  We’re having the in-laws over the weekend before Thanksgiving for a little pre-holiday shopping.  I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to have for dinner that day.

I want to keep the flavors seasonal, but not make it too formal.  With the big meal only a few days later I don’t want to go overboard.  I had been looking at a couple of chicken recipes, but I don’t think poultry is the way to go.  Then, I ran across this recipe in my Fine Cooking magazine from last November.

Pork chops with cranberry maple sauce

Fine Cooking (source)

That’s right, pork chops.  This recipe is for a pan-seared pork chop with a cranberry maple sauce.  I love the idea of the cranberry and maple flavors, which I’m going to carry through out the menu.

Maple is a favorite flavor of both my DH and MIL and perfect for a November meal.  It goes well with both sweet and savory dishes.  The addition of the cranberry flavor helps to cut through the sweetness of the maple.

I am planning on a cranberry almond shortbread tart for dessert.  I’ve checked the reviews on it and there’s a little concern it may be too tart.  I’ll do a trial run on this one and see if it needs to be sweetened up at all.

Cranberry Almond Shortbread Tart

Fine Cooking (source)

I still have to figure out what I’d like to do for appetizers, but here’s the final menu.  I can’t wait, it’s going to be so good!

Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

Appetizers: TBD

Dinner: Pecan, Radicchio, and Asian Pear Salad, Pork Chops with Cranberry Maple Sauce, Maple Roasted Carrots, and Yeast Rolls.

Dessert: Cranberry Almond Shortbread Tart

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Posted by on November 6, 2013 in Meals


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Autumn Birthday Dinner

Last weekend was a family birthday weekend.  I wanted the menu to  focus on the flavors of fall.  I had been reading through my Ina Garten cookbook, “Back to Basics”.  There are quite a few recipes in it that I’ve been wanting to try, especially the side dishes.

Baked Salmon Birthday Dinner

The finished product!











I knew early on we were having a baked salmon for the main course.  What I needed were the sides.  I went with a pan-roasted root vegetable recipe in the “Back to Basics” book.  It included parsnips, turnips, and celery root; all veggies we hadn’t tried before.  Plus, it had brussel sprouts which are probably my most favorite winter veggie.  I love them!  In addition, I had roasted assorted baby potatoes.  I just spray them with olive oil, add a sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and bake till tender.

The star of this meal though, surprisingly, was the Autumn Tossed Salad.  It was awesome!  So awesome that I’ve already made it again this week for dinner.  I found it in one of my past Taste of Home Halloween magazines.  The recipe called for romaine, but I used spinach.  Plus, it had pears, apples, dried cranberries, shredded swiss, and cashews.  I used my own vinaigrette recipe with poppy seeds.

This salad was super simple to make, especially with my Genius Salad Chopper.  This thing rocks!  Everything is easily sliced into bite size pieces.  If you haven’t seen one of these before go check it out.  You will love it.  Kudos to my mother-in-law on this gift!

Genius Food Chopper

Using the Genius to chop the salad.















Here’s the lowdown on the full menu.

Appetizers: Shrimp Puffs (another great recipe), hot crab dip,  and assorted munchies and candies.

Main Meal: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Back to Basics), Autumn Tossed Salad, Roasted Root Vegetables, Roasted Baby Potatoes, and Roasted Salmon.

Dessert: Cake and ice cream

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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Meals


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