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Dinner Plans



Recently I read an article about a way to improve communication that seems so simple but is really profound. The next time you are sharing a table with several people, agree to not break off into smaller sub-groups. You don’t need to make a proclamation about it, just see if you can steer the talk so that everyone is involved and no one is splintering off. What comes from it is fascinating; you instantly have a group of people who may not know each other well, and each has something important to say.

When three or more couples get together, invariably the women will pull together and talk about the kids and relationships, while the men will discuss…..I have no idea what. Later that night, you walk away with your spouse, feeling like you have enjoyed your time, but you may not feel any more connected than before dinner. Now, imagine if a woman who spends most of her days at home with children were to discuss a public relations situation with a Corporate Manager, or a high school teacher shares his heart with a female restaurant owner. Now you’ve got some rousing conversation! The best way to do this is to allow everyone into the same shared conversation.

Obviously this isn’t something you will want to do all the time, occasionally it’s nice to spend time with your tribe, but I can look back to a few times when I really felt heard by people outside of my family, and it was when we were all investing in the same topic. Think about how rare that is in everyday life.

It seems that so often we sit with our friends and spend time with those who are most like us, but if we were to change it up some and give everyone the respect they deserve for simply being at the table, I think we could all learn some things, and walk away feeling a little more connected. I want to challenge you to simply give it a try, whether you are in mixed company or a large group of like individuals; decide to stay on one topic at a time and see where it takes you.



Spicy Vietnamese Shrimp with Coconut Rice


Five years ago I attended a cooking class with a friend and this dish was on the menu. Since then it has become a family favorite because of it’s deep flavor and ease in preparing. The trickiest part is finding Asian chili paste, I ordered it from Amazon when my local store stopped carrying it. This recipe is made to feed a crowd, but you can easily cut it in half. I make the full size and have some awesome leftovers.

Spicy Vietnamese Shrimp with Coconut Rice

3c jasmine rice

3 3/4 c water

1 1/2 t salt

4 T oil (I use Avocado)

2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 t salt

28 oz  coconut milk (not lowfat)

4T Asian chili paste

2c fresh bean sprouts

2 green onions

2T fresh lime juice

Cook rice in water and salt for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered for about 15 minutes. Heat oil in a large skillet and add shrimp, garlic and salt for about 5 minutes until shrimp is pink. Remove the shrimp and add the coconut milk and chili paste, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to reduce by half, takes about five minutes. Add shrimp and rice and top with bean sprouts, green onions and lime juice. Serves 10-12.








Eggplant Parmesan


I found this recipe in my latest Bon Appetit magazine, looked through the ingredients and determined I only needed to purchase eggplants and went for it! Unfortunately, I didn’t read the recipe closely and the whole thing took close to three hours to get to the table. Halfway through the job, I decided it wasn’t worth it….until my family LOVED it. That sounds about right….

Eggplant Parmesan

Marinara Sauce of your choice (I had some homemade sauce ready to go)

4 lb eggplants (I used two good sized), peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/2″ thick

3 c panko bread crumbs

1 1/2 t oregano

1 t black pepper

1 1/ c grated parmesan, divided

1 1/3  flour

5 large eggs

1 1/3 c olive oil

1/2 c chopped fresh basil

6 oz mozzarella, grated

8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced

Lightly season the eggplant slices with salt and place in a single layer on several layers of paper towels inside a rimmed cookie sheet. Continue topping layer with more eggplant slices and paper towels and put something heavy on top for an hour to pull the moisture out of the eggplants. This is important because it gives the eggplant a creamy texture when baked.

Meanwhile, pulse panko, oregano, pepper and 3/4 c parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Place in a shallow bowl. Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third bowl. Dredge each eggplant slice into the flour, then dip into the egg and finally into the panko crumb mixture. Place in a heated skillet (med high heat) with 2/ c olive oil. Cook as many eggplant slices at once as will fit into the skillet, turning once until golden brown, 3-5 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels and immediately press to absorb oil. Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices, adding the rest of the olive oil as needed. Allow to cool. It was at this point that I had decided this would be a one-time recipe!

Toss the chopped herbs, grated mozzarella and remaining parmesan into  medium bowl. Spread 1 c marinara sauce over the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan (I used two 9 inch squares), top with a layer of eggplant slices, drizzle 1 c sauce over slices and sprinkle with one third of cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, 1c sauce and half of remaining cheese and repeat layers. Cover with foil and bake 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from the oven and arrange fresh mozzarella slices over eggplant. Increase oven to 425 degrees and bake uncovered 15 minutes more. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before serving, topping with Italian herbs.

It’s a commitment, but like most things in life, well worth the effort. Makes 12 servings



Swiss Chard Pie

IMG_463942856We have so much swiss chard in the garden these days! I planted five plants and expected it to act like lettuce did last year, one big return and that was it, but this stuff is hearty and keeps replenishing every couple of days. I found a cookbook called Jerusalem last week that has beautiful pictures and explanations of Middle Eastern foods. My guy and I went on several expeditions to find all kinds of interesting ingredients, and now we are ready to start cooking some new foods. This recipe came from that book, but it they call it Herb Pie, we found it to be delicious.

Swiss Chard Pie

2 T olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 lb swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and finely shredded

5 oz celery, thinly sliced

2 green onions, chopped

1 handful arugula or spinach

1 oz parsley, chopped

1 oz mint, chopped

2/3 oz dill, chopped

4 oz anari or ricotta (I used ricotta)

3 1/2 oz cheddar cheese, grated

2 oz feta

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 large eggs

1/2 t salt

1/2 t pepper

1/2 t superfine sugar

9 oz filo pastry (I used 10 sheets)

Oven 400 degrees. Pour the olive oil into a large skillet at medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the chard stems and celery and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn up the heat to medium high and add the chard leaves, cook for 4 more minutes until the leaves wilt.Ad the onions, arugula and herbs and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer into a colander and allow to cool. When cooled, squeeze out as much liquid as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt and pepper and mix well.

Lay out a sheet of filo dough and brush it with some olive oil. Cover with another sheet of oiled dough to make five sheets and place in the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate, covering the entire plate with some hanging over. Fill the pie plate with the swiss chard mixture and place another stack of five sheets of oiled filo dough over the top. This does not need to be flat orneat, scrunch up the dough on top to produce a wayvy, uneven texture if desired. Brush the top with olive oil and bake 40 minutes .


Tomatoes and Zucchinis

photo (20)We were looking for a light dinner last night and as I was thinking at our garden’s bounty I remembered this one, perfect for the end of the summer! This is a quick one to put together, start the sauce first because the ‘pasta’ takes five minutes! In the summer months I don’t really even cook the sauce, I coarsely chop the tomatoes, onions and garlic and pour it over the pasta.

Zucchini Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

2 zucchinis, peeled and shaved into thin slices like fettucine

1 T Olive or Grapeseed Oil

1 onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

6 Roma tomatoes, pureed slightly

2 t. basil/oregano/Italian seasoning

Saute the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the tomatoes and and herbs and heat through for about ten minutes. When you place the tomatoes in to heat, pull out another skillet and heat at medium heat with grapeseed oil for 2-3 minutes. Drain all the water you can from the zucchinis and place them in to the skillet. Let sizzle for two minutes, then turn them over to get heat evenly distributed. Do not leave on the heat for more than 3-4  minutes total. Plate the zucchini, pour sauce over it and sprinkle with parmesan. Serves 2.

Baked Goat Cheese Salad

goat saladThis is such a great addition to a summer salad, and very simple to do. I found the original recipe here I like that there are very few specific details, just do what you like. When you serve the goat cheese with raspberries and balsamic, the combination is delicious. I have also done this with smoked salmon or grilled chicken, and it simply works!

Baked Goat Cheese

1. Cut you goat cheese into disks about 3/4-inch (2cm) thick. You can use anything from small crottins to a larger cheese, slicing it in half across the equator. Marinate the disks in olive oil, which can be done up to two days in advance. If done in advance, I like to add some herbs, such as fresh rosemary and thyme, as well as some black pepper, and let them rest in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375F (180C).

2. Mix together fresh bread crumbs (for four servings, about 1/2 cup, 60g) with a generous pinch of sea salt, and just enough olive oil to moisten the crumbs, about 1 to 2 teaspoons.

3. Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet and cook the crumbs until golden brown and crispy, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring a few times during baking.

4. Once toasted, let cool and mix in 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon chopped parsley.

5. Brush the goat cheese rounds with olive oil. (Unless they’ve been marinated. In which case, pluck them from the oil and let the excess drip off briefly.)

6. Dredge the goat cheese in the toasted breadcrumb mixture until they’re completely coated and bake on a cookie sheet or in a gratin dish, either non-stick or lightly-greased, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until warmed through and soft when you press gently in the center.

7. Remove from over and use a spatula to lift the goat cheese rounds from the pan.

Serve with a green salad and thin slices of toasted levain (sourdough) bread, a favorite crisp bread, or crackers. This also makes a great appetizer.

Party Cheeseburgers

FullSizeRender (2)I follow a food blog called Kevin and Amanda’s Recipes  and they have some unusual twists on good food. I made this recipe for a small group, doubled it for about 20 people, not one burger was left at the end of the night, and several people asked me for the recipe.

Party Cheeseburgers

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups diced onion (about 1 whole onion)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (10-oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles, drained
  • 12 slices cheddar cheese
  • 12 dinner rolls
  • ½ cup (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place a large skillet on the stovetop over high heat. When the pan is very hot, add the beef and season with salt, pepper, cumin, mustard powder, and paprika. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned and onions are golden. Stir in drained tomatoes until well combined.
  3. Place bottom half of buns in prepared pan. Top with beef & sliced cheese. Finish off with the top half of the bun.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for the glaze in a sauce pan over medium heat until melted, smooth and combined. Pour over the buns.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Makes: 12 burgers.


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