Category Archives: dinner

What to do this Weekend: Dinner with Friends

It’s August, we’re officially closer to fall than spring.  While we’ve complained about the oppressive (really, it has been) heat, in as many weeks we’ll (I’ll) be complaining about the colder temperatures.

So, in this order: invite some friends over, fire up the grill, open up a bottle of wine, eat, talk and laugh too much.

Dinner with Friends! Grilling by Jon, Flowers by Kristin

Dinner with friends doesn’t have to be fancy.  It could be new flavors or old favorites – the company is what counts!

Need ideas for some dishes?  Connect with me on Pinterest for some yummy inspiration.

Easy Springtime Vegetables

During the Passover/Easter weekend I did a lot, a lot, A LOT of cooking — which also meant a lot of eating.  when I was planning the menu I wanted healthy and spring dishes.

Here are two bright, colorful, and healthy winners – Roasted Carrots with Parsley and Lemon Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower.

Roasted Parsley Carrots, adapted from The New York Times
2 pounds carrots, peeled, then cut in half  horizontally and then down the middle vertically
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a prep bowl drizzle the olive oil over the carrots and then sprinkle in the salt, pepper, thyme and oregano.
Lay the carrots on a foil covered baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until fork tender.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Add parsley just before serving.
Lemon Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower, adapted from Martha Stewart
1 head broccoli (about 1 pound), broken into 1-inch florets
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), broken into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground pepper
Prep the broccoli and cauliflower, wash, dry, and cut and place in large Ziploc bag or Tupperware. 
Add to the container the olive oil, salt and pepper, thinly sliced garlic and the lemon slices.  Close the container and shake thoroughly to fully coat all of the pieces with the oil, lemon and garlic.
I left my vegetable bag in the refrigerator overnight, but you could also skip right to the roasting.
Lay the contents of the bag onto a covered baking sheet and into a 450 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, longer for crispier vegetables.  Check the vegetables at the midway point and toss on the pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
These recipes were affordable to source, a cinch to prepare, healthy and kid approved.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

A few weeks ago I scraped together some vegetables from the refrigerator to make a pasta dish.  A few bites in Mark, my most honest taste tester, proclaimed it the best pasta dish I had ever made.  When I find a good thing or a great recipe, I stick with it  – I have made this dinner for the last three weeks!

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Ingredients
1 large eggplant
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
2 handfuls of green beans
2 links of chicken sausage (optional)
1 onion
Spaghetti for 2 (1/2 box of Quinoa Heritage spaghetti)
1 tbsp Olive oil for the pan
Olive oil spray
Garlic (I use cubes, three)
Basil (I use cubes, three)
Salt and Pepper
Pepperoncino to taste
Parmigiana Cheese to taste

 The great thing is that with this recipe there are no rules.  Did you want more pasta than vegetables?  Sure.  Love green beans?  Make it three handfuls!

Cut the eggplant width-wise into coins and then cut across into cubes.  Prepare a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with extra virgin olive oil spray.  Spread the eggplant evenly on the sheet, spray eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Bake on the top shelf of the oven at 350 for 35 minutes.

While the eggplant is roasting, get to work on the rest of the ingredients.  In a sauce pan melt the onions in olive oil with garlic and basil.  If you’re including the sausage, add slices to pan. Then, add the cleaned green beans and sautee on low/medium heat.  The green beans can hang out on their own for a little while without much attention, just a stir here and there.  I top the pan with a cover to allow the steam to soften the beans, but not too soft.

After the eggplant has been roasting for 15 – 20 minutes add to the oven the halved cherry tomatoes, also treated with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place the tomatoes on the top shelf to allow them to get blistered.

During this time, set the water to boil for your pasta of choice.  After the vegetables are cooked/roasted and the pasta is perfectly al dente, add the drained pasta to the green beans pan, along with the eggplant and tomatoes.  Give the entire pan a light drizzle of olive oil and gently stir to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Serve with fresh shaved Parmigiano and a sprinkle of pepperoncino – and then you can also weigh in if this is your favorite pasta dish to date.

P.S. Mark, this is dinner tonight!

Homemade Ketchup

So, for about a month my refrigerator was broken, which meant that I was grocery shopping a lot (think daily), and didn’t have a lot of basic ingredients (think ketchup). 

Note any recipes made on the blog, or shared with friends were with fresh ingredients, have no fear! 

Anyway, I have no ketchup, but we’re making fries and obviously everyone knows that ketchup goes with fries, and as a kid also with eggs, chicken, potato chips (ick, really?!), burgers and dogs…

Homemade Ketchup Ingredients
1 Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tbsp of honey
2 tsp of red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste



Chop in half all of the tomatoes and scatter them on a tin foil wrapped cookie sheet.  Drizzle over the tomatoes olive oil and season with salt.  This is to taste, and if possible I’d err on the side of under-salting.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the tomatoes have blistered and look a bit charred around the edges.

In a food processer/blender/maybe even by hand combine the roasted tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and honey and pulse for two minutes, stopping intermittently to scrape down the sides.   Taste.  Need more salt, more pepper, too sweet, too vinegary?  You can adjust a blend again for another 30 seconds.

Serve with freshly roasted potatoes, or glam up a burger and dog.  While this “ketchup” might not be kid-approved because of it’s more rustic and homemade texture, this homemade ketchup packs the acidity of the tomatoes, the bite of the vinegar, the sweetness of the honey and come without any of the packaging or preservatives.


Taco Night

Growing up “taco night” was a big deal in our house, we usually had friends come over and share in the abundance of food, and as far as having fun while eating, it’s hard to beat this meal.

So, with that in mind, it was a really nice surprise to come home from work on Tuesday and find that Taco Night had graduated to a more sophisticated level and made for me, by Mark.  What is great about this dinner, is that it is a cinch to make and the ingredients are all fresh and healthful and seasonal for summer.

Taco Night Platter - Pre Construction

Ingredients for the perfect Taco Night:
1/2 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast/tenders
2 ears of corn
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 whole yellow onion, chopped
corn tortillas
1/2 packet of taco seasoning, Trader Joe’s
1 tbsp of canola oil
1/4 cup of Greek Yogurt, nonfat
1/2 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup of Lite Mexican Blend Cheese, Trader Joe’s

If you’re lucky enough to have  a BBQ grill this is the perfect all in one, little clean up meal to make.

Step 1: Coat the chicken in the canola oil and then dredge in the seasoning mix. Set aside.

Taco Dinner

Step 2: Put the corn, still in it’s husks, the chopped onion, the to

matoes secured in an aluminum foil “bag”, then chicken over indirect heat on the grill – in that order.

Step 3: Rotate the corn, flip the onions, shake the tomatoes, flip the chicken (only once) after ten minutes.

Step 4: Allow corn to cool enough so that you can handle it; remove the husks and cut the kernels from the cob.  Prepare the “sour cream” by mixing the yogurt and olive oil.

Step 5: Serve and make your tacos!

Summer Salad

In honor of the start of Summer I made a salad to celebrate. I wanted something crunchy, sweet, colorful and most of all healthy. That is how this salad came to be.

Summer Salad Ingredients
3-4 Cups Frisee
2 ears of Corn
6 large strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons plain sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste

This is a great salad for dinner option, and also travels well as each component can be stored separately and then combined on site.

Frisee – I know this isn’t the salad green that most people gravitate towards but, this branchy leaf has the right amount of bite to stay strong with the fruits and vegetables that would typically overwhelm spinach or arugula. If you can’t get down with the frisee, I think a crisp romaine could also do the trick.

Corn – For this salad fresh is best and so if you have to use a can, I would skip it entirely. This is a great way to use leftover corn from a dinner earlier in the week. My favorite technique is to wash the ear and dry it and place it on a tin foil square with a small pat of butter, salt and pepper and then twist close the foil. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees or throw it on the grill. For this salad, take a strong knife and shear the corn from the cob.

Strawberries – Wash, halve, quarter. Feel free to taste along the way. When in season strawberries are a favorite sweet snack.

Blueberries – Wash, dry, snack and set aside for salad.

Tomatoes – Wash, halve, sprinkle with a touch of Kosher salt and set aside.

Sunflower seeds – These added an awesome nutty, sunny warmth to the salad if you can imagine such a thing. When toasted (in a muffin tin) these erased the need for cheese or crouton toppings.

For the dressing, in a small bowl mix all ingredients and taste. I like my dressings a bit more acidic so I may use more vinegar than the next gal, so feel free to taste and modify. The goal is to keep it light and simple so that the dressing doesn’t overpower the salad.

When you’re ready to serve layer the toppings over the frisee and drizzle with the dressing. The bowl with be filled with bold, bright, natural and healthy colors.

When you’re done eating your body will be full from bold, bright, healthy foods!


Arriving to and Eating in San Francisco

This is the last leg of our California Road Trip – taking the drive from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco with an overnight stop in Monterey/dinner in Carmel and a visit with friends in Sunnyvale (outside of Silicon Valley).

We’re working backwards, so that I can share with you a terrific meal and fabulous recipe for home.

Before heading to the airport we parked along the pier to find a great dinner spot.  We found a perfect pre-travel meal at Plant Cafe Organic.  Mark and I skipped the local wines and instead opted for fresh pressed juices.  Everything was a delight; full flavors, vibrant colors, terrific view.

The stand-out order was my dinner, the Ginger Miso Quinoa Bowl, with shrimp.

I have since made a version of this dish at least four times since returning home.  It is impossible to screw up, and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love it.

Ginger Curry Quinoa Bowl Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 medium sized carrots
  • 2 medium sized zucchini
  • 1 red, orange, yellow pepper
  • 1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined or tofu/chicken
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup of teriyaki/soy blend (Soyaki)
  • 1/4 cup of Thai Yellow Curry Sauce (Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 cup quinoa

The recipe uses a lot of vegetables, but there is a lot of room for creativity.  Extra broccoli, no corn? No big deal.

Prepare all vegetables by chopping the onion, mincing the garlic, cutting the corn from the cob and cutting the carrots, zucchini and peppers into 1/2″ spears.

Prepare the pan with a small splash of olive oil and the onions and garlic and cook over medium/low heat.  When the onions have begun to melt add the carrots.

Then add directly to the pot the coconut milk, water, vegetable broth, sauces, seasoning and ginger.  With a gentle hand, mix all of the ingredients.

Add the zucchini and peppers and cover.  The flavors are all working together for a really layered and full bodied bite.  When the vegetables are softened but still firm (after 10 minutes) start the quinoa in a separate pot.

As the quinoa is finishing add the corn to the vegetable pot and recover.  Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes and then turn for 1 minute, or until the shrimp loses it’s grey in favor of a more fashionable (and safe for consumption) pink.

This dish is a breeze to make, cheap to prepare and perfect for the next day’s lunch.

Leftover tip: keep the quinoa separate so that it doesn’t absorb all of the sauce!

Other notable SF stops:

  • Sunnyvale, we got to visit with friends who we hadn’t seen since our wedding, who recently moved to Sunnyvale.  We got to meet their adorable daughter, who unsurprisingly found her first boyfriend in Mark.  We walked about the beautiful campus of Stanford University, and understood why if you’re going to do extended studies, you’d want to do it there.  (It is the most beautiful campus I have ever been to. Note to future progeny, I will be happy to visit you there.)
  • Then we moved on to San Francisco we met up with a high school classmate of Mark’s, John Gidding, of HGTV fame. Together we went to Starbelly in the Castro district and then onto Blackbird nearby.  Starbelly is all atmosphere, and very good food.  You walk in and the energy is palpable; young people, v-neck t-shirts, wine and cheese.  The restaurant features upcycled wood and communal tables and a daily changing menu.  We shared the Starbelly domestic cheese plate and salumi.  The presentation was stunning, it was piled high with gorgeous cheeses and meats and dotted with sweet berries and nuts. The emphasis is on fresh and the flavor is delicious.
  • The next day we met a high school friend of mine, Rachel, for  lunch in the city.  We went to the Sentinel.  It is famous for their corned beef sandwich and that is what Mark got and quickly devoured.  Talk about aromas luring you in – this is the lunch spot in SF for an amazing sandwich.

It is easy to see how you could leave your heart in San Francisco, but bring the recipes home with you!

Late Night Pancakes

We used to live in Arlington, VA, but in a high-rise condo, so we had the feel of city-living.  Our building was directly adjacent to an IHOP – one that we have visited on NYE, and after my bachelorette party. Now we live in a suburban enclave in DC and there are no IHOP’s within reach.

That doesn’t mean that distance quells the need for pancakes every once in a while.

The funny thing about pancakes is that you can buy a wide variety of mixes, but you’re still adding ingredients to the mix, so why not just make them yourself, from scratch?!

Late Night Healthy Pancakes – from scratch!
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg
3/4 cup water/skim milk
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup apple sauce (*snack cup sized)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey

*Makes 8-10 3-4″ pancakes

In a medium sized bowl mix the dry ingredients together and set aside. In a small bowl whisk the wet ingredients together and then slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

In a griddle pan on low to medium heat add a pad of butter and when that has melted, but not burned, ladle the first scoop of batter (about 1/4 – 1/3 of a cup).

Let the pancakes cook on one side until bubbles begin to appear at the top, and then flip. Too much flipping, or too much time will create burnt little cakes.

These pancakes aren’t like the ones you get at IHOP, with big huge air bubbles, and the kind of texture that makes you think you can stuff an entire 12-inch pancake in the sides of your cheeks. These are pancakes for grown-ups (or people who call themselves grown-ups!). These are made with healthy ingredients, and no sugar, and crazy ingredients like flax, and protein rich Greek yogurt.

These are pancakes that have some bite, and you can eat for dinner, and maybe for breakfast the next day. And, you know for fun, with a lot of syrup!

Spring Vegetable Pasta

Sometimes dinner at my house is a game of what do I have in the fridge, and how much longer will it really last?  Things with major staying power get to stick around for Wednesday/Thursday night’s dinner.

This meal came out of that game.  I had fresh spring peas, two green zucchini, a chunk of parmigiana that was all, “Carly, eat me, a little bite… I’m so good,”  and some fresh basil.  All of that would be perfectly delectable with pre-made arugula and ricotta filled ravioli.

Spring Vegetable Pasta Ingredients

  • A splash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • One large onion, chopped into thin rings
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 zucchini, shredded into ribbons
  • 1/2 cup of fresh (or frozen) spring peas
  • Splash of vegetable broth (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup depending on your sauce preferences)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (pepperoncino)
  • a sprinkle (or a handful) of parmigiana cheese
  • your favorite pasta

First prepare the zucchini, this is the most time consuming element so you might as well get it out of the way early.  Chop the head and “butt” of the zucchini off and with a fruit peeler peel down the length of the zucchini revealing thin strips the width of the vegetable.  Set aside.

In a large sauce pan add a swirl of the olive oil and then add the onions.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper here, and over medium/low heat let the onion soften and sweat.

(At this point put water in a separate pot to boil and follow instructions.)

Add the garlic and when that spicy, fragrant aroma fills the air – is that not the best smell? – add the zucchini.  At this point you can give the onions and zucchini a good stir, pour in the vegetable stock and cover.

When the zucchini ribbons are softer but not soggy add the peas and again give this some good stirs so that the flavors are all fully incorporated.

When plating this healthy and quick to make dinner give the vegetables one more quick drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper and cheese.


Potato Crust Mushroom and Swiss Quiche

Sometimes it is a Monday night and you realize you have like 12 mushrooms in your refrigerator and two random russet potatoes – both of which were purchased at some point with another recipe in mind.  But now you don’t care about those recipes.

So what to do?  Potato Crust Mushroom and Swiss Quiche probably does the trick.  I am a quiche fan – it is easy, filling, and completely customizable.

Potato Crust Mushroom and Swiss Quiche Ingredients
5 eggs
2 egg whites
3/4 cup skim milk
2 large russet potatoes
1 onion
10 – 12 mushrooms
10 stalks skinny asparagus 
6 slices Swiss cheese, or shredded Swiss
1 tbsp of grated parmigiana cheese
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

 I know there are quiche enthusiasts who will say a good quiche has to be with a proper pie crust, and usually that is true.  However, in the pursuit of healthy living and delicious eating, this is a fast and quite good alternative.

Slice the potatoes crosswise into 1/4″ coins. In a colander drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper -this is a tip, place the colander over the pan you’ll be baking in to catch the oil. Then neatly layer the potatoes in a to cover the base of the pie pan. I sprinkle a tablespoon of grated parmigiana cheese on to the potatoes and then set in the oven for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

While the crust is baking chop the onion, mushrooms and asparagus.  In a large nonstick pan saute the onions and when they are softened add the mushrooms and then when the mushrooms are just a moment from being down add the asparagus.

Cooled vegetables with the Swiss cheese on top
While the vegetables and crust cools – this is very important – prepare the egg mixture.  I used 2 egg whites and 5 whole eggs and I think you could adjust that to your liking. Whisk egg, milk and salt and pepper and then add the cooled vegetables and cheese.

Bake in the 375 degree oven for 30 minutes – at this time the egg should have a slight bounce but be firm and an inserted knife should come out clean.  This is beautiful served with a fresh salad or on it’s own because it is filled with delicious and nutritious vegetables – and yes, in our house it is breakfast, lunch or dinner!


P.S. Mark and Carly secret: During a bridal shower game I had to guess what Mark’s favorite food was that I made.  Not lasagna, or crab cakes, or cookies, quiche.