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Garden Fresh Pasta Dinner

I had friends over on Sunday and by request, made a garden fresh entrée. The advantage with this type of dinner is, it is quick and easy to prepare while guests are there. We had pleasant conversation as I put it together, which from start to finish was less than 20 minutes.

I apologize in advance, I have no photos of the final dish because I was having such a good time I completely forgot to even get my camera out.

Garden Fresh Pasta

  • 4 tomatoes
  • about 4 basil leaves (or 1/2 tsp dry)


  • 12 oz linguine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper (or red or orange as desired), chopped into large pieces
  • 2 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 large eggplant, cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tomatoes (I used a variety from my garden and my friends’ garden), chopped into large pieces
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dry)

saucepan, skillet, large pot

Blend 4 tomatoes and 4 basil leaves together until smooth and add to saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer while prepping the remainder of the dinner.

In large pot, cook pasta according to package directions, to al dente. Drain, but don’t rinse.

In skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil, add onions. Saute for a minute and then add peppers. Stir occasionally until they are softened and onions are translucent. Add additional tbsp of oil, once heated, add garlic, zucchini and eggplant. Saute until tender. Finally, add tomatoes and basil, cook for one to two minutes and then add the tomato mixture from the saucepan. Stir together gently and bring to a low boil for about 1 minute. Serve over pasta.

I served it with grated Parmesan, tossed salad and fresh baked bread

Go wild and add whatever fall garden vegetables you have on hand….


Dinner Menu: Salmon in Dill Sauce with Raspberry Pear Salad

Haven’t posted a dinner menu for a while. Pears are on sale right now, so I wanted to take advantage of that. It  has nothing to do with me being tired of plums, grapes and tomatoes. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

On the board tonight:

  1. Salmon in Dill Butter Sauce
  2. Rice
  3. Pear-Raspberry Salad

Salmon in Dill Butter Sauce

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • 4-6 oz boneless, skinless salmon fillets
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • ½ cup chicken broth


In skillet, melt butter, add dill & lemon juice.  Brush lightly over fillets.  Add chicken broth to remaining butter in skillet and bring to a low boil, lower heat and let simmer until reduced by half .  Grill fillets for 3 to 4 minutes each side (be sure and oil grill rack well before using.  You can also grill on foil or in a grilling pan).  Drizzle with sauce.

Pear-Raspberry Salad

  • 8 oz walnut halves
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic
  • 16 oz baby greens
  • 2 ripe Bartlett pears
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 2 oz blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup raspberry vinaigrette dressing

baking dish, serving bowl

In baking dish, toss walnuts with oil, soy, ginger, salt & garlic.  Toast in a 250° oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until walnuts are crisp. In serving bowl add lettuce.  Seed and slice pears, add to lettuce, along with raspberries, bleu cheese, & walnuts.  Toss with dressing.



July 4th: Pasta Salads

summer pasta salad

JeffreyW gives us a delicious example above

I am going to a quick 4th of July party on Monday – I still have to work, and pack. I’ll probably be working the entire holiday weekend so I can take off the week after I move.

My friend and I were talking menu items and pasta salad made our list. So I thought I’d put up a few salad recipes for the holiday.

My favorite is Chipotle Macaroni Salad and can be found here.

Greek Pasta Salad adds a fresh take on the traditional pasta dish. Recipe is here.

Tangy Pasta Salad incorporates lots of fresh vegetables. For complete dinner menu, recipes and shopping list, click here.

Pasta Salad final

And finally, this one is just as it says, quick and easy, and very tasty.

Quick and Easy Macaroni Salad


  • 1/2 cup creamy Italian dressing (I like Newman’s Own)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • pepper

Blend together well and refrigerate until ready to mix in.


  • 16 oz box favorite pasta
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed dried basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 oz shredded carrots
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz cubed mild cheese (I used a marbled colby/jack)

Bring water to a boil, add 1 tsp salt and pasta. Cook until al dente (firm to tooth). Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Do not drain well, allow macaroni to stay wet, remove to bowl. Immediately add garlic, spices, celery seed, and let sit for 5 minutes. As the pasta absorbs the remaining water, it absorbs all the flavors. Next stir in carrots, celery, cheese and tomatoes. Save tossing with the dressing until 5-10 minutes before serving. This keeps the pasta from absorbing all of it and becoming mushy and flavorless, but still gives it enough time to meld the flavors together.

Next up – what I decided to bring to the party….stay tuned….


Grilling Menu: Stuffed Jalapeno-Cheddar Burgers and Cajun Sweet Potato Fries

Stuffed Burger Uncut Snap

I make these all the time because they really are easy and a great way to have a cheeseburger without losing half the cheese to the grill. And the sweet potato cajun fries are the perfect sweet, spicy combo.  Grill some plums and dinner is done. Enjoy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Jalapeno-Cheddar Stuffed Burgers
  2. Kaiser Rolls
  3. Cajun Sweet Potato Fries
  4. Raw Vegetable Tray
  5. Plums

Jalapeno-Cheddar Stuffed Burgers

Stuffed Burger Final

Ingredients for each burger:

  • 4 oz ground beef
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed garlic (opt)
  • 1 oz sharp cheddar, sliced thin
  • 2 or more slices of pickled jalapenos

Mix salt, pepper and garlic into the ground beef. Form two, 2-oz patties. Place jalapenos on one burger, cheese on the other.


Place the two sides together and seal the edges completely. Gently flatten the burger, but be careful because you don’t want the cheese busting out of the center.


The key to grilling or frying these is low and slow. Medium heat seals them and allows the cheese to melt without drying the burger out. I flipped at the 5 minute mark, but depending on the heat, 3-4 minutes may be enough to flip. They’re thin, so the beef cooks quickly, but you want to make sure the cheese melts. I would say minimum 4 minutes per side.

If cheese starts to leak out, flip and flip again as needed. DON’T press down on these burgers while you grill, you’ll have a cheesy mess.

Now the warning. Did I say WARNING? Yes I did. You’ll need to rest these burgers to let the cheese cool a bit. Otherwise you could be biting into a scalding cheese center. You’ve been WARNED.

That’s the basics, now let your imagination run wild. Maybe I should have titled this, How To Stuff A Wild Burger.

Cajun Sweet Potato Fries

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ tsp cumin (opt)

large bowl or baking dish and baking sheet

Cut potatoes into quarters lengthwise, then cut each quarter into 2 or 3 lengthwise slices. In bowl, toss with remaining ingredients and place in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes, turn and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown outside and tender inside.


If you grilled the burgers you can also grill the plums. Slice in half, remove the pits and grill over low heat

Shopping List:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar or jalapeno jack
  • sliced jalapenos (I use pickled)
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 tomato
  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 4 large Kaiser rolls
  • Favorite raw vegetables
  • Vegetable dip
  • 4 to 8 plums

Also: cumin, Cajun spice, sugar, salt, pepper, olive oil, crushed garlic


Friday Recipe Exchange: Spicy, Sweet and Hot

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I was looking around for one of my recipes, which I’m using for tonight’s featured recipe, and in the process stumbled upon JeffreyW’s cache of wings – in all kinds of varieties (you can see most of them here). That inspired tonight’s theme – hot wings!

Before I get to that, a couple of things cooking in my kitchen this week.

Cold weather refused to go away, so I made a big batch of Beef and Barley Soup, recipe here.

This week’s dinner menu was Sweet Ginger Beef and Snow Peas, click here for menu and recipes.

Now for the wings:

JeffreyW makes mouths water with his Sesame Wings, picture above and recipe here.

His secret for crispy Oven Baked Hot Wings, pictured below, can be found here.

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And finally, Baked Honey Glazed Wings, if you’re not into a lot of heat. Click here.

What’s cookin’ in your kitchen (or on your patio) this weekend? I’m in need of an ultimate (and easy) waffle recipe for upcoming company. Anyone have one they want to share?

Buffalo Leg Quarters

Wings are great as snacks for a big crowd, but when you want a dinner entree, I find this recipe works great.

I love Buffalo Wings. I don’t make them much because it seems a lot of work. I can almost always find a special on leg quarters and look over there next to them…bottles of my favorite buffalo sauce. Together they make a yummy dinner.

Buffalo Chicken

  • 4 lbs of leg quarters (approximately 4 pieces)
  • flour
  • salt & pepper
  • cayenne pepper (opt)
  • oil
  • favorite Buffalo sauce (mine is from a local shop that sells bottles at my local grocery store)

skillet, baking sheet

Mix together flour and spices. I like mine spicy so I added cayenne to the flour mixture. Dredge chicken in flour mixture until well coated.

Over medium heat, heat a tbsp of oil for each quarter (I had to fry mine in two batches, so I added 2 tbsp for each batch). It doesn’t take much to crisp up the skin. Fry until golden brown, turn and brown on the other side. It can take from 5 to 7 minutes per side.

Remove to baking sheet and bake uncovered at 350 degree until the thigh temp is 175 degrees (about 30 to 40 minutes). Every 10 minutes, remove and baste with Buffalo sauce, about three times. Before removing the fully cooked chicken from the oven, give a generous coating of Buffalo sauce and let heat through. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with bleu cheese or ranch dressing, and celery sticks.

That’s it for this weekend. Next week I’ll share the menu for my very special company. Have a great weekend – TaMara



Friday Recipe Exchange: Filled Shortbread Cookies

Filled shortbread cookies

That blemish on that strawberry is going to haunt me. But the cookies were delicious. A bit of cooking going on this week. I’m also putting together my menu for my June visitors, which will probably be the topic for the next several recipe exchanges.

Tonight’s feature recipe was going to be used during that visit, but I won’t lie to you, it’s labor intensive and I decided there would be too much going on to try and attempt them. This is why I test-drive recipes. I refuse to be a tied to the kitchen when I could be having fun with my guests.

Before we get to that recipe, here is what else was cookin’ in my kitchen this week:

Rotelle No-Boil Pasta Bake – quick, easy and I love the little wheels. Click here for the recipe.

Leftover raspberries went into a nice salad: Pear-Raspberry Salad, recipe here.

Spring Roll step 1

And this week’s dinner menu was Chicken Satay and Thai Spring Rolls. Menu, recipe and shopping list are here and photo instructions for the spring rolls are here.

No Bixby this week (although his resistance video got picked up by I Love Great Danes and he’s quite popular. Insists on wearing shades when we walk now – no autographs please). But here is a little kitteh to end your week. She rules the big guy.

What’s on your plate this weekend? Have any warm weather recipes to share? Grilling, fresh greens, fun sweet treats?

Tonight’s featured recipe:

Raspberry and Strawberry Filled Shortbread Cookies

I was going to make my own filling, but when I realized how labor intensive rolling out shortbread dough was going to be, I went will all-fruit style jams instead.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 2-1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • fruit filling – I went with strawberry (hearts) and raspberry (circles)
  • parchment paper (not optional)

cookie cutters (sharper the better), rolling pin, baking sheets

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add salt and then flour, about a third at a time, mixing gently until all flour is incorporated.  Divide dough in half. Place one half on parchment sheet, cover with another sheet of parchment and roll to about 1/8 inch thick. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the second section of dough. Place baking sheet in the refrigerator and cool for an hour.

Remove one of the dough parchment packets (keep the other refrigerated until ready to use). Peel off the top piece of parchment and cut out the large shapes, then for half the shapes, use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the center. Move the center pieces from the center to the parchment, so they don’t bake back together. I used the center pieces to make sandwich cookies. Place the parchment on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees (f) for about 15 to 20 minutes – remove them when they are light golden. Because they are thinner than regular shortbread, keep a good eye on them, they cook up quickly.

Repeat with the second parchment packet.

Remove cookies and let cool thoroughly before assembling. To assemble, place a spoonful of fruit filling in the center of the whole cookie and GENTLY press the cut out cookie on the top, allowing the fruit filling to spread to the edges and fill the center. (Resist the urge to lick the edges to smooth them out) Serve the centers plain or make fruit filled sandwich cookies as desired.

Makes about two dozen, depending on the size of the cookie cutters.

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


Friday Recipe Exchange: Spicy to Sweet

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JefferyW’s Carnitas

No rhyme or reason for tonight’s recipes. A hodgepodge of culinary treats. Nothing pithy to say, so lots of photos instead.

Slowcooker pulled pork

Pictured above, Pulled Pork, sweet and spicy barbecue or spicy carnitas (at top), recipes here.

Apple Salad1

Dinner menu this week is full of fresh spring flavors, Herbed Linguine and Apple Salad, menu and recipes are here.

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JeffreyW brings us three sweet treats. Blueberry Banana Bread with Sugared Pecans, pictured above and recipe here.

He changes it up a bit with his Raspberry Banana Bread, click here.

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And finally, one of my faves, he whips up a batch of Creme Fraiche, above and instructions here.

For the pet lovers, there is a Bixby video…how do you move 160 lbs of Great Dane…well… video is here. And a cute photo of him crashed out on the couch here.

What’s cookin’ for your weekend? Anyone planning on breakfast in bed/fancy dinner for the mothers in their lives? If you’re looking for breakfast recipes, click here.


Tonight’s featured recipe comes from a friend of mine. He is always experimenting in the kitchen and coming up with delicious dinners. Good are the friends who feed you.

This can also be made in a slow-cooker.

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 (pork works well, too)
  • 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.

Pico de Gallo

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

Mix together 20 to 30 minutes or more before meal.

That’s it for this week. Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and all the moms out there. Have a great weekend – TaMara


Shredded Potato Encrusted Chicken

Shredded Potato Packet Final

This is one of my favorite quick dinners. Looks and tastes great if you want to impress guests, but quick and easy enough for weeknight dinner.

Potato Encrusted Chicken

  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Old Bay Spice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 large boneless chicken breast , cut into equal halves


  • 4 boneless chicken thighs

Wash and shred the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. I don’t peel them. Drain them well. I squeezed the water out by hand and then patted with a paper towel. Then combine in a bowl with onions, salt, pepper and old bay spice.

Season chicken or fish fillets with salt and pepper. You want the fillets to be fairly equal in size, so halve the breasts and trim the fillets so they are about 4×4 in size.

Potato packets1

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet.  When the oil and butter are hot, spoon 4 small, evenly spaced mounds of the shredded potatoes (each about 1/3 cup) into the skillet (my skillet is small, I had to do two at a time).

Press a portion of chicken into each mound and cover with the remaining potatoes. Cover the skillet. Cook the potato packages over medium heat for 6 to 7 minutes. Add additional oil if needed (I added a little as I turned each piece).

Turn them carefully with a large spatula and cook them for 4 minutes, remove the lid and continue to cook for an additional to 2 to 3 minutes uncovered. The potatoes should be nicely crusted on both sides.

Reduce heat to low and cook an additional 3-5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.


Friday Recipe Exchange: Mix It Up

Cucumber SalsaI did quite a bit of cooking this week, but it’s been busy enough that I haven’t put together the recipes or taken a lot of photos. So tonight I’m highlighting some past favorites.

Pictured above is Crisp Cucumber Salsa, always a hit when I make it. Recipe here.

Baked Ziti is my go-to for dinners to take to events or share when condolences are needed – I often take it unbaked so it can be fresh and hot when needed. It’s also a great make-ahead dinner for weeknights. Recipe here.

This week’s dinner menu is Cranberry Pepper Steak and Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes, click here for menu and recipes.


This yummy photo is from JeffreyW – it’s Bacon Dill Potato Salad – instructions here.

What’s on the menu for you this weekend? Grilling yet? Have anything fun planned?

Pasta Jambalaya_Snapseed2

Tonight’s featured recipe is another quick but tasty dinner entry. When I was a kid I used to love the Friday nights my mom said, I’m tired of cooking let’s just have hamburger goulash – which was basically hamburger, tomato sauce and elbow macaroni with some spices thrown in. This recipe is like an adult version of that, with some real flavor.  Still easy to put together.

Pasta Jambalaya

  • 12 oz penne pasta
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • 15 oz can black beans
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz can chopped green chilies
  • 4 oz smoked sausage, sliced (I like Andouille)
  • 4 oz shredded Mexican 4-blend cheese


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. In the saucepan, heat oil and then sauté onion, pepper, celery and carrots until onions are translucent and celery soft. Add garlic, Cajun seasoning, tomatoes, chilies, beans, carrots and sausage. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add pasta and let simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with cheese as garnish.

Note: When a recipe says to add 1 tsp to 1 tbsp, or to taste of a spice, add it in small increments, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp at a time. Remember you can always add more, but it’s pretty tough trying to remove what you’ve added.😉

That’s it for this week. We’ve finally gotten rid of the clouds and it looks like a great weekend to spend outdoors Have a great weekend. – TaMara



Quick Crispy Braised Chicken Dinner

No photos because I completely forgot when it was done. If I make it again, I’ll update with a photo.

I picked up chicken thighs on sale last week and wanted to come up with some quick one-pan dinners for a few of them. That led to tonight’s dinner. It would work well with any bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces.

I like this recipe because it’s about 15-minute prep time, one pan and once it’s in the oven it’s hands-off. Tastes like a nice Sunday chicken roasted dinner. The crispy skin is a bonus.

Quick Braised Chicken Dinner
Serves 2*

  • 2 to 4 chicken thighs (depending on size)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • rosemary sprigs
  • 2 large russet or Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 large carrots, scrubbed and trimmed

large cast-iron or oven proof skillet

Pat dry chicken breasts. Salt and pepper generously, gently lift the skin and salt and pepper underneath it. Place skin-side down in a COLD skillet, no oil needed. Turn heat to medium-high and slowly heat chicken until skin is crisp.

By using a cold skillet, you allow the fat to render out of the chicken skin and it will crisp up nicely without sticking or burning. It will take about 10 minutes to crisp.

While the chicken is crisping, scrub and quarter potatoes and carrots

Turn chicken over – you’ll want to use a spatula so you don’t leave the skin behind. Remove from heat, add potatoes and carrots around the chicken pieces. Add enough water to cover all but the chicken skin (so it stays crisp). Top with rosemary sprigs.

Place skillet, uncovered, in oven and cook at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour – until potatoes and carrots are tender and chicken is cooked through. Check occasionally to see if you need to add more liquid.

Serve with a salad for a quick dinner.

*if you want to double this recipe, you’ll want to use a roasting pan after crisping the chicken in the skillet.

For a saucy Italian version of this, click here.

Braised Chicken