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Dinner Menu: Pasta with Marinated Vegetables and Bruschetta

Photo courtesy FoodNetwork

Photo courtesy FoodNetwork

Just finished giving the Beast a bath. He hasn’t been in the tub all summer because he loves sprinklers, his pool and my neighbor hosing him down. The first thing I noticed: he’s grown. I’ll post pictures later.

Keeping in the vegetarian theme, here is this week’s dinner menu.

On the board:

  1. Pasta w/ Marinated Vegetables
  2. Tomato & Olive Oil Bruschetta
  3. Grapes

Pasta w/Marinated Vegetables

  • 10 oz Rotini pasta
  • 1 tray ice cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled & chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 10 to 12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 red onion, sliced in rings
  • 2 oz black olives
  • 2 oz grated parmesan


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 oz fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tsp minced oregano leaves
  • 1 to 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Saucepan, skillet, bowl, serving bowl

Mix together dressing and refrigerate. In saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse in cold water and toss with ice cubes. Set aside and let cubes melt. While pasta is cooking, in skillet, heat oil and sauté eggplant, mushrooms and zucchini until tender. Remove and cool in refrigerator while preparing remaining vegetables. In bowl, toss all vegetables with dressing. Remove any un-melted ice cubes from pasta, and toss with vegetables, refrigerate 10 minutes. Add cheese.

Tomato & Olive Oil Bruschetta

  • 1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (more if needed)
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 green onions, chopped

baking sheet and bowl

Gently toss 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp crushed garlic, basil, tomatoes and green onions and set aside. Mix togethere 1 tbsp oil and 1 tsp garlic. Spread on sliced sides of bread. Broil bread until golden brown on top (watch carefully). Layer tomato mixture on each half of the bread and then slice each half into quarters or eighths.

Shopping List:

  • 10 oz Rotini pasta
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 2 zucchini
  • 10 to 12 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 loaf Italian bread
  • Large bunch of basil
  • Small bunch oregano
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 3 green onions
  • Grapes or any in season fruit

Also: crushed garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar




Friday Recipe Exchange: Not Afraid to Experiment

Spinach Tomato Soup

What a week we’ve had here. I retreated to the kitchen often, cooking truly reduces my stress and helps me refocus. And since everyone needs to eat, I have a perfect excuse to retreat and regroup.

Cool weather blew in today, signalling the start of soup season, a great time of year. I have quite a few soup recipes and I began the season with one of my favorites, Tomato-Spinach, pictured above and recipe here.

Next up, Pumpkin Bars, because I needed something to share with friends and this recipe makes a lot. Click here for recipe and photos.

JeffreyW went to the Farmer’s Market and made Refrigerator Pickles, there are plenty of great photos and the pickle recipe here. He went on to use the beans he purchased to make Three Bean Salad, here.

And finally, for the pet lovers, some Bixby pictures and a bit of an update.

It’s the last official weekend of summer, how will you usher it out? What’s on your plate for the weekend? We are going to head up to the mountains to take in some color, which is predicted to be a short show this year.

Sausages with Grapes

For tonight’s featured recipe, I decided to experiment with flavors I would have never thought of on my own. Facebook and blog friend Michael F, shared a recipe on Facebook from Italy, in Italian no less, and the photo intrigued me. I let google translate the recipe (which was a hoot) and went about putting my touches into it.

It was so unusual, my most reliable recipe testers politely declined my dinner invite. Totally understandable. But I will tell you I was pleasantly surprised how well this turned out. If you like pork and apples, this has a similar flavor palate. It was also quick and easy to prepare. I’m glad I decided to experiment.

All right, if you’re up for something new and different, here you go, tonight’s featured recipe.

Sausage and Grapes

  • 8 links Italian sausage (I used spicy, but you could use any style sausage you favor)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 cup green seedless grapes, washed, dried and halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, washed, dried and halved lengthwise
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used none, didn’t need it)
  • angel hair pasta
  • freshly grated Parmesan


Slice sausage links into four pieces each, add to skillet and fry on medium high for about 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel seeds, cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent. Add grapes, stir until well mixed, cover and let simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes while pasta cooks.

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain well.

You can toss with the sausage mixture, or serve separately. Serve with Parmesan.

The pasta was my addition. When I asked Michael what would be a good side, he suggested eggplant or roasted potatoes. Roasted zucchini spears would probably work well, too.

Here is the original recipe.

That’s if for this week. Have a great weekend. – TaMara



Soup Season: Updated Tomato-Spinach Soup

Spinach Tomato Soup

It’s been a rough week – mostly for people around me. I found myself retreating to the kitchen often to cook. Definitely helps clear my head and regroup. Soup season is in full swing as Autumn is fast approaching. We may actually blow off work tomorrow and head up to the mountains to see the colors.

Today I decided to make a big batch of one of my favorite soups. It did not disappoint. I ‘beefed’ it up because I had some ground beef that I needed to use up. I’ll do that again. Yum.

Tomato-Spinach Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef (or 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 1/4 of a small onion, chopped
  • 24 oz diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, cleaned
  • 8 oz sliced carrots (I use frozen)
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup water, as needed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish
  • spinach chiffonade for garnish

blender, saucepan

In saucepan, brown ground beef and onions. In a blender, blend together spinach and tomatoes, until smooth*.  Add to beef mixture, along with vegetables and spices.  Bring to low boil, stirring frequently, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan and spinach chiffonade.  Makes 4 generous servings.

*Blending the spinach, tomatoes together gives you a nice hearty tomato base for the soup.  You can add some additional spinach leaves at the end if you like, letting them get limp but not overcooked.

Original vegetarian recipe is here.


Dinner Menu: Cranberry Grilled Chicken

Cranberry Chicken 3_Snapseed2

Continuing  my week of highlighting recipes that have low salt content. This homemade sauce is tangy and sweet, plenty of flavor without added salt. To reduce salt even more, use low-sodium ketchup (or homemade ketchup) and a dash of red wine vinegar. Hoping to get a Bixby update later today.

On the board tonight:

  1. Cranberry Chicken
  2. Cheesy-Lemon Cauliflower
  3. Steamed Rice (I like Jasmine with this menu)
  4. Ice Cream Sundaes

Cranberry Chicken

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 cups whole cranberries*

9×9 glass baking dish, greased and skillet

Heat butter in skillet, sauté onions until golden brown. Arrange breasts in one layer in baking dish. Mix together ketchup, sugar, vinegar, mustard & onions. In a blender, coarsely chop cranberries and add to sauce mixture. Spoon over chicken. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes, until chicken is 180° in center.

*As anyone who reads the blog knows,  I keep cranberries in the freezer, having stocked up during the holidays. If you can’t find whole cranberries, use whole, canned and omit the brown sugar.

Cheesy-Lemon Cauliflower

  • 16 oz cauliflower crowns
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ tsp curry
  • 1 tsp salt- or substitute 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar
  • 1 lemon, quartered


Add cauliflower, 1 inch of water and ¼ cup lemon juice in saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until cauliflower is just tender. Drain. In saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter, sauté onion until golden, then add flour, stirring until smooth. Add milk, seasonings & cheese, stir until well mixed and smooth. Add cauliflower, stir well. Reduce heat and let simmer on low, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Serve with lemon.   The lemon in this really brightens the flavor.

Shopping List:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 cups whole cranberries*
  • 16 oz cauliflower crowns
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 onion
  • 4 oz milk
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar
  • 1 lemon
  • rice
  • 1 quart favorite ice cream
  • Sundae toppings

Also: butter, flour, curry, salt, red wine vinegar

Sweet Olathe Corn Finally Arrives and Dinner Menu

DSC_2554 [1024x768]

Photo by JeffreyW

How is it Thursday already?

It was a big day today. Took a friend out to lunch at the new Tapas bar and Olathe Sweet Corn finally arrived in the store. Seems the rainy spring delayed the crop. I made a special trip to the store today to ‘stalk’ up.

Before that, we sampled the new Tapas bistro, SAMPLES. Really wanted to check out the roof top patio, but it was much too hot for that, so we settled for a sidewalk table. It was a pleasant experience. Good food, good beer and super nice staff. I think the consensus was that we would go back for more ‘samples’.

I had two completely new taste experiences (well four if you count the beer samples): truffle butter (on the bacon and grilled onions flatbread) and poutine (spare rib poutine to be exact). They were both fun and flavorful. I’d add spaetzle in brown butter, but my friend tells me it wasn’t true spaetzle, even though it was still delicious. Tasted like chicken mac ‘n cheese.

We finished down the road with Funnel Cake Strawberry Sundaes, offered in honor of county fair season. It was yummy.

Freddy's Funnel Cake Sundae

Freddy’s Funnel Cake Sundae

Later in the day I stopped at the grocery store, picked up a dozen ears of corn and steamed a few for dinner. I’ll prep the rest tomorrow and remove from the cob and serve cold on salads.

In honor of that arrival, grilled corn is on tonight’s Dinner Menu. It is one of the first menus I ever wrote.

On the board tonight:

But wait, there’s more! Click to read full menu

Dinner Menu: Carne en su Jugo


I had big plans for cooking this week, which all went to hell by the end of today. So perfect time for a Men Who Cook/Guest Recipe.

Tonight we have a guest menu from my friend Alton Gunn, who has provided us with several good recipes.  It’s delicious, I’ve been lucky enough to have it several times (good are the friends who feed you).

On the board tonight:

  1. Carne en su Jugo
  2. Pico de Gallo
  3. Tortillas
  4. Margarita Melon Salad

Carne en su Jugo

  • ½ lb bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 lb sirloin steak, sliced thin and then cut in 1-inc pieces
  • 1 can (28oz) tomatillos
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt
  • 2 can pinto beans
  • sour cream for garnish
  • shredded cheese
  • chopped onions for garnish
  • fresh lime juice for garnish
  1. Brown the bacon in a large dutch oven. Add the beef and cook until brown (leave the bacon grease in the pot).
  2. Blend the tomatillos in your food processor and strain well to remove the seeds. Add about a cup of the tomatillo liquid back into the food processor and blend with the cilantro, and garlic.
  3. Add the tomatillo/cilantro/garlic sauce and the rest of the strained tomatillo liquid to the beef and bacon. Add salt to taste.
  4. Stir in pinto beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beef is tender, about 1 hour.
  5. Ladle into bowls  and garnish with pico de gallo (recipe below),  fresh lime, sour cream.
  6. Serve corn or flour tortillas on the side.

Al’s Notes: I’ve made this with beef and pork. The basic sauce is good for stewing pretty much any meat. Will try chicken next.  Works well in the crockpot

Pico de Gallo

  • chopped onion
  • chopped tomato
  • chopped cilantro
  • splash of lime

Mix together 20 to 30 minutes or more before meal.

Margarita Melon Salad

  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 shots tequila
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ cantaloupe, seeded and cubed
  • ¼ honeydew melon, seeded and cubed
  • ¼ small watermelon, cubed

Many markets sell halved melons and wedges of watermelon, making it easy to prepare this salad closer to desired amounts.

Combine lime juice, tequila, liqueur, and sugar in a bowl. Add melons and toss to coat with tequila and lime. Serve in shallow bowls.


Originally posted July 2010

Dinner Menu: Mambo Italiano Edition

Spaghetti and Meatballs2

Going old school tonight.  I thought you may still have some zucchini and tomatoes that needed to be used up and this menu does both.  Growing up, spaghetti was a weekly occurrence.  I’m not sure where my mom learned to make it, because it is my dad’s half of the family that is Italian, but it was always a hit at our house.  Over the years we’ve all played with different variations, but this is pretty close to the original. Whether it was at a weekly family meal or the Christmas dinner at my Gram’s, this basic sauce ruled.  And the good thing is, it is simple to modify depending on your tastes.  If you want to spice things up, add 1/4 to 1/2 lb of spicy Italian sausage and reduce the ground beef by as much.

Quick, easy and freezes well, I usually make double so I have some on hand for quick dinners.  Trust me, you will never find any jar sauce in my house.  Ever.  If you’d like to have meatballs instead, recipe is here.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce
  2. Zucchini Italiano
  3. Crusty Italian Bread
  4. Sherbet or even better, Gelato

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta of choice (I like angel hair for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp dried basil, crushed*
  • 3 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely grated or 1/2 tsp sugar (these reduce the acidity of the sauce and bring out the spices – trust me on this one)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

2 saucepans and large skillet

In skillet, heat oil, sauté pepper, onion, garlic.  Add hamburger and cook thoroughly.  Add tomato paste and 1 tsp ea of crushed basil, oregano and rosemary, mix well.   In saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add meat mixture and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Zucchini Italiano

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½  tsp oregano, crushed
  • ½  tsp basil, crushed
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

medium skillet

Clean and slice zucchini, heat oil in skillet, add zucchini, garlic and spices. Stir-fry over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon water and let steam until zucchini is tender.  Toss with parmesan and serve.

*CRUSHING Spices – when using dry spices, to get the best flavor, you should crush them, either by rubbing them in your hand or using a mortar and pestle before adding them to a recipe.

Shopping List:

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 carrot
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • Crusty Italian Bread
  • Sherbet or  Gelato

Also: olive oil, crushed garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, rosemary, salt & pepper


Originally published Oct 2010 copyright What’s 4 Dinner Solutions Cookbook Spring Edition

Friday Recipe Exchange: Chicken Buttermilk Biscuit Pie

Chicken Biscuit Pie_Snapseed1

They were predicting snow today, it did not show up, but it’s unseasonably cold. SNOW. I am not ready. But it does put me in the mood for cool weather recipes. Soups and tonight’s featured recipe, easy Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie. 

Life has been hectic, I’ve been busy with house hunting, work and of course the puppy, so I’ve kept meals simple. I haven’t linked to it in a while, but I have a bunch of tips for keeping meals quick, easy and full of flavor right here, which may come in handy now that school and activities are back in full swing.

For the dog lovers, Bixby updates are here and here. He’s now 33 34 lbs and so smart, he’s been a breeze to train.

On to the recipes. Soup is what I miss most in summer, so as soon as the temperatures dip, I break out the soup recipes. Here are three for you:

Cream of Chicken Soup (recipe here).

Spicy Black Bean Soup (recipe and full dinner menu here)

Chicken Tortilla Soup (recipe here)

What’s the weather like in corner of the planet? What’s on your plate for the weekend? Hit the comments and share some of your favorite fall recipes.

For tonight’s featured recipe, I brought together some of my favorite comfort foods into one dish. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the chicken mixture to a baking dish and top with biscuits.

Chicken and Biscuits_Snapseed2

Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots (frozen ok)
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup peas (frozen ok)

Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat

In a large bowl, combine the chicken with salt, pepper and olive oil. Sear chicken in pan, stirring occasionally, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside in a separate bowl. Add butter to the pan and, when melted, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the stock, browned chicken, potatoes, and spices.

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat so that the sauce just simmers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and potatoes are tender…about 25-35 minutes.

While it simmers, prepare Buttermilk Biscuits, below.

Just before adding biscuits, fold peas into chicken mixture and then remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the biscuits on top of the chicken and gravy, with 6 biscuits around the edge of the pan and the remaining 4 biscuits in the center (if you have a left over biscuit or two, bake on a separate baking sheet). Be sure the biscuits do not touch, so they cook thoroughly. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and flaky…14 to 15 minutes. Allow the pot pie to cool briefly before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

Buttermilk Biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 4 tbsp powdered buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter to brush on formed biscuits

Mix dry ingredients, make a center hole in the dry ingredients and add in shortening and milk.  Blend together, then knead 10-12 strokes on a floured surface, roll out to ½” thick, cut into 8-10 biscuits.

That’s it for this week. Have great weekend. – TaMara



copyright 2014 What’s 4 Dinner Solutions Cookbook: Spring



Full Dinner Menu: Black Bean Soup

_DSC8525 [1024x768]

Mouthwatering Photo by JeffreyW

Believe it or not, they are forecasting snow by the end of the week. From 90 to snow in 4 days. Fall in Colorado. If it does snow it will be quick and brief I’m sure, then back to warm days and fall leaves. But cool weather means soup to me, so that is what I chose for this week’s menu.

This is a recipe from a restaurant in Ouray, CO that was in an old bank. They gave it to me 20 years ago on my honeymoon and I make it all the time. This was my first experience at having to change a recipe meant for 60 into one for 6-8. It’s spicy, so ease up on the cumin and chili powder if needed, you can always add more during the last 30 minutes if needed.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Black Bean Soup
  2. French Bread
  3. Red Grape Salad
  4. Apple wedges & Cheese

Black Bean Soup

  • 4-14 oz cans black beans
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 cubes beef bouillon
  • 1 tsp to 2 tsp cumin
  • 3 carrots, shredded
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green pepper, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine (opt)
  • 1 lb chopped smoked sausage
  • 12 cups water


Add all ingredients to slow-cooker and cook according to directions (usually 8-10 hours on low). Just before serving, take a potato masher or hand blender and blend/mash slightly to thicken

Red Grape Salad

  • ½ head red leaf lettuce, torn
  • 3 cups seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored and cubed
  • 4 oz shredded carrots
  • Poppy Seed dressing

Serving bowl

Toss ingredients together, chill and serve

Shopping List:

  • 4-14 oz cans black beans
  • 4 -6 carrots or equivalent shredded carrots
  • ½ onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 oz dry red wine (opt)
  • 1 lb smoked sausage
  • ½ head red leaf lettuce
  • 3 cups seedless red grapes
  • 1 pear
  • Poppy Seed dressing
  • French Bread
  • Apple wedges & Cheese

Also: salt, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, chili powder, beef bouillon, cumin, pepper

Originally posted December 2009


Leftovers – Kicked Up with Kale

DSC_9054 (1600x1060)Not much to this dish.  We had the butterbeans and cornbread leftover from the other day.  A quick saute of some kale in bacon grease and chicken stock and this was a done thing.  We cooked a half dozen slices of bacon and set them aside to drain, then added a couple of minced garlic cloves and a little diced onion to the fat, gave them a minute to flavor the pan, and then dumped in the kale.  Separate the tough stems and rough chop or tear the leaves.  I tossed the greens a little to coat them with the bacon and then added a half cup of chicken stock and covered the pan.  Let the kale tenderize in the steam for five minutes then uncover and toss until the liquids evaporates.  I ladled the warmed over beans onto a bed of the kale and crumbled the crisp bacon and the cornbread over them.  I squeezed a lemon into the kale to add a bright note but that is optional.


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