Sunday, August 1, 2021

Ina Garten's Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel {One Of My Favorite Recipes Of All-Time!!}


I'm taking a break from the healthy recipe posts to celebrate and bring you an absolutely amazing pasta dish, Ina Garten's Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel

You see, ever since January, I have completely overhauled my lifestyle. I completely changed my diet, cutting out almost all starchy foods in favor of lean meats, eggs, and vegetables. I do allow some fruits (no more than 2 per day) and some dairy (I could never give up cheese). I also try to move my body as much as possible (walks in the mornings, parking as far away as I can, always taking the stairs, making it a point to get up and move every hour, stretching, cleaning, etc). I never drank anything else besides water before, but I also seriously upped my water intake. I did this faithfully for seven months. It was hard. So very hard. There were weeks I stepped on the scale and didn't lose a pound. Sometimes I would go two weeks without losing any weight at all. Those weeks were devastating. I told myself it didn't matter how fast I lost the weight. It wasn't a race. The important thing was that I felt SO MUCH better. I stuck with it.

Folks, IT TOOK ME SEVEN MONTHS TO LOSE 25 POUNDS! It was not easy! I still have about 25 additional pounds I would like to lose, but I am allowing myself to take a break for a week or two to celebrate, maintain the weight loss, and recharge.

Ina's Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel was a recipe I kept seeing pop up on a Barefoot Contessa Facebook group. Folks were making it almost daily and so in love with it! I watched for a month or so while people hailed this dish as one of the VERY BEST PASTA DISHES THEY'VE EVER EATEN! I simply could not wait to try it! I knew it was going to be worth the splurge, so I decided that this was going to be my celebration meal.

I was skeptical because guess what? I have NEVER liked fennel. However, I decided I was going to give it a go and I am so glad I did! I can vouch for this dish y'all! It has what every other pasta dish is missing. Maybe it's the fennel? Maybe it's the crushed fennel seeds? Maybe it's the cream? Nevertheless, this is THE PASTA DISH to make right now. I have literally told everyone I know about it, and I am telling you now, this is hands down one of the top 5 recipes I've ever made on my blog... and I've logged over 1000 recipes on this blog!

Do not skimp on the fennel. Do not leave anything out! If you have a hard time finding fresh fennel, then keep searching. If you have a hard time finding fennel seeds as I did, keep searching. You have to follow this recipe to a T. Do not leave out the wine or try to be healthy and skimp on the cream. However, if you are vegetarian, then know that you should still try this. Use any sausage or meat substitute. Trust me on this one! This pasta dish begs to be made!   

Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel

Adapted from Food Network

by Ina Garten

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons good olive oil

3 cups chopped fennel (1 large bulb)*

1-1/2 cups chopped yellow onion

1-1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausages, casings removed

2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)*

1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

salt and black pepper

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 pound rigatoni

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 cup freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese, divided

*Notes: Sometimes fennel can be hard to find. Keep searching. Do not leave out any ingredient in this dish as it is perfect the way it's written. Go ahead and buy a little extra fennel to make sure you have enough. I had to buy 3 bulbs of fennel to equal 3 cups chopped! Two cloves of garlic could be a small amount. Best to make sure they're big cloves and/or add a little extra to be sure you have enough garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and saute for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the sausage and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, crumbling it with a fork, until nicely browned. Add the garlic, crushed fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper and cook for one minute. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and add the heavy cream, half-and-half, and tomato paste. Bring back to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 tablespoons salt, and cook the rigatoni according to the directions on the package. Drain and add to the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Serve hot in shallow bowls with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan on the side.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Cajun-Style Broiled Shrimp {Summer Slim Down Series #9}


One of my very first memories is looking down and watching my little toddler feet walk up porch steps with my mom hovering over me telling me to "hurry up before the alligators get you."

I went to Houma, LA when I was 2 years old. My mom's dad lived there and we went for a visit. My mom used to call me Turtle because I was real slow and she was deathly worried I would get eaten up by alligators just walking up the porch steps. She must've talked about those gators until she was blue in the face because it's all I remember about my first, and only, trip to Louisiana. 

New Orleans has been at the very top of my list for travel destinations for as long as I can remember. I mean the culture, the swamps, the architecture, the history, and the is truly a one-of-a-kind destination. You just know it's going to be a wonderful time! 

Our family hasn't had a chance to take our usual summer vacation this year, but we are really hoping we can get to New Orleans this fall during our fall break from school! If we do, I am going to want to eat ALL the things. Isn't that what you do in New Orleans? Beignets, Muffalettas, Etouffee, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Po'Boys, Bananas Foster, Pralines, and all the shrimp.

One does not go to New Orleans to be healthy for the week. It is all about the decadence! Until then, however, I am still practicing my healthier lifestyle (and by the way, I have lost 25 pounds - woohoo!) One of the things that has really helped me lose weight has been eating shrimp at least once a week. Shrimp is something that you can really indulge in as it is really low in calories. If you chose the right preparation as I did here with Mark Bittman's Cajun-Style Broiled Shrimp, you can really eat like a king!

All you need to do is get some shrimp and make a flavorful paste of: garlic (lots of garlic), salt, cayenne, paprika, lemon juice, olive oil, and lots of black pepper. Then you just slather that flavorful paste all over the shrimp and broil it. It might not look like there is much seasoning on the shrimp, but wow! The shrimp are full of garlicky cayenne flavor! This really does make for a wonderfully light and flavorful summertime meal. 

Let the good times roll!


Cajun-Style Broiled Shrimp

Adapted from Mark Bittman

NY Times Cooking

Serves 3-4

1 garlic clove* (more like 5)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

lots of black pepper

1-1/2 pounds peeled shrimp

lemon wedges and hot sauce, for serving

Notes: I have no idea why Bittman only wants you to use 1 little clove of garlic in this recipe. I used at least 5, maybe eve 6 or 7 cloves. Also, feel free to add more cayenne, or less, and don't be afraid to make it your own!

 Turn on the broiler, and put the rack close to the heat. Mash 1 garlic clove (or 5 cloves) with 1 teaspoon salt until it forms a paste. Add it to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil and lots of black pepper. Rub paste all over 1-1/2 pounds peeled shrimp. Broiler, 2 to 3 minutes per side. 

Serve with rice and veggies and/or serve alone with bread. Enjoy!

Vacation Eats @ IHCC

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Peking-Style Roast Chicken {Summer Slim Down Series #8}


Dear Mr. Jacques Pepin,

I wanted to cook a healthy meal that the whole family loves, roast chicken. We all love roast chicken and we also love using the leftover in dishes throughout the week, so I turned to you and your French ways for a good roast chicken recipe. Now, maybe some of this is my fault. I suppose I was walking on the wild side yesterday because I chose your Peking-Syle Chicken.

I chose this particular recipe because we were featuring condiments, sauces, dressings, and all manner of sauces over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. When I saw your recipe for Peking-Style Chicken using soy sauce, honey, Tabasco, and balsamic vinegar I thought, "great, I can kill two birds with one stone."

I started with a really good organic chicken. We can roast any chicken, but a quality organic chicken always tastes a whole lot better.

Then I unpacked my chicken from the wrapping and decided that I wasn't going to take out the wishbone in order to make it easier to carve. I do not like handling raw chicken, Jacques. I always short change this part. I also didn't truss the chicken like you wanted me to because again, I dislike handling raw chicken. I trussed the bird real quick while grimacing and cringing on the inside. I was a vegetarian for 7 years for this reason. I do not dealing like with raw meat.

After washing my hands one hundred millions times and wiping down every hard surface in my kitchen because I loathe raw chicken, I then proceeded to boil the chicken for 3 minutes and then simmer it for 2 minutes. I understand this will help crisp up the chicken skin, which is a desired goal for Peking Chicken.

Then I slathered my chicken with the Peking mixture of soy sauce, honey, Tabasco, and balsamic vinegar. This is going to be excellent I thought. Everything is looking good. Jacques will not let me down.

I slid that chicken in the oven and at the half hour mark it looked beautiful, with gorgeous color. I basted it with the Peking sauce again and slid it in for another half hour. When I pulled it out I panicked. Why was my chicken looking so burnt, Jacques? Do you know the horror I felt? Nevertheless, I persisted. I guess this chicken is meant to look burnt, so I slather it with the remaining Peking sauce and stick it back in the oven. Now I am fretting and freaking out because I'm counting on you for a wonderful roast chicken. Except, the air smells somewhat acrid in my house - a burning smell like hot burning soy sauce and vinegar. I start totally questioning my choices and I run to the kitchen to cover my chicken with tinfoil so the skin won't get any darker. I know this may prevent the skin from being crisp. I start freaking out about ruining the chicken.

After being in full-blown panic mode for at least 30 minutes, I pull the chicken out and the chicken is dark and burnt looking. It's as dark as my cast iron pan. The bright sunlight is reflecting off the chicken and I cannot get a good picture of my burnt-looking chicken. My husband is laughing at me because I'm taking a picture of a burnt looking chicken and I'm doing it over and over again with a craze. Then I start laughing like a maniac because Jacques, you have me taking pictures of a burnt ass chicken! Why am I taking pics of a burnt looking chicken? My husband watches me move the chicken all over the kitchen trying to get a decent picture and he bellows, "it will look burnt no matter what you do."

Finally, in an effort to defy my husband, I decide to cut the chicken and take a picture of the thigh and leg alongside my baby red potatoes and creamed peas. There I think, it doesn't look so bad now.

The crisis is averted. The skin is definitely crisp and the chicken is just fine, but we definitely prefer a more classic roast chicken and decide that we are not fans of the Peking-Style. 

That said, I will not be walking on the wild side for awhile, Jacques. I thought the chicken would have a dark red lacquered look, but oh no that just wasn't the case, was it Jacques? You've never really stressed me out before, or done me wrong, and the chicken really was ok, so I won't totally quit you, Jacques. However, I will take a break. A warning about the color, Jacques. That's all I ask for.

I still love you though,

Kim of Stirring the Pot

P.S. Here are some links to great roast chicken recipes that I've shared on my blog. Roast chicken is a great way to have a healthy meal and also enjoy some quick healthy leftovers.

The Very Best (and also the fussiest): Julia Child's Roast Chicken

The Second Best (but also my go-to recipe because Julia's is so fussy):  Ina Garten's Engagement Roast Chicken 

The Roast Chicken Smeared With 2 Sticks of Butter (and from the archives): Tyler Florence's Ultimate Roast Chicken 


Peking-Style Chicken

Adapted from Essential Pepin

by Jacques Pepin

Serves 4

1 chicken (about 4 pounds)

1-1/2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

12 ounces small button mushrooms, cleaned

1/2 cup water

Notes: I didn't have mushrooms so I added 2 heads of unpeeled garlic cloves to the bottom of my roasting dish prior to roasting the chicken. In my mind you can't go wrong with roasted garlic as a side.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Bring 10 cups water to a boil in a large pot.

Meanwhile, remove the wishbone from the chicken (I did not do this but will include directions below). Fold the wings of the chicken under the back and truss it with kitchen twine to help maintain the birds compact shape (I did not do this either).

Lower the chicken breast side down into the boiling water. Return the water to a boil over high heat (this will take about 3 minutes). As soon as the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer the chicken gently for 2 minutes. Drain and place the chicken breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan.

Mix the honey, soy sauce, Tabasco, and vinegar together in a small bow Brush the chicken on all sides with some of the mixture. Roast breast side up for about 30 minutes.

Brush the breast side of the chicken again with the honey mixture, then roast for another 30 minutes. 

Arrange the mushrooms in one layer under the rack in the pan and add the water. Brush the chicken with the remaining honey mixture and roast for 15 minutes longer.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Pour the accumulated juices and the mushrooms into a saucepan. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes, then spoon off as much fast from the surface as possible, and reheat if necessary. 

Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the juices and mushrooms.

How To Remove The Wishbone From The Chicken: The wishbone is often removed from chicken, duck, and other birds to make carving easier. To remove the wishbone, place the bird on its back and lift the skin at the neck to expose the flesh. Slide the point of a paring knife along either side of the wishbone, cutting into the flesh (about 1/2 inch deep for a chicken). Then insert your thumb and index finger on either side of the wishbone and pry it out.

How To Truss A Chicken: Trussing a stuffed bird helps keep the stuffing in. Trussing also helps a bird hold its shape, whether it is stuffed or not, so it cooks evenly and looks better on the serving platter. Nevertheless, trussing is usually optional!

To truss a chicken, use fairly thick cotton kitchen twine, so it doesn't cut your fingers. Slide a length of twine under the tail and around the tips of the drumsticks, then cross the twine above the chicken and slide both ends of the twine under the tips of the drumsticks to create a figure 8. Hold the ends of the twine together, which will close the tail opening. Pull the ends of twine around the sides of the bird until they join at the neck end, next to the wings, and tighten the twine, securing it behind the wings or behind the stump of the neck; tie a double knot so the twine doesn't slide off. Remove the twine before serving. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Greek Nachos with Feta Drizzle {Summer Slim Down Series #7}


It's fair season and everyone loves to cruise the midway at their local fair for some good eats!

Now we all know that fair food gets a bad rap because of dishes like deep-fried Oreos, but I'm about to give the fair some major props. Did you know that the World's Fair in 1904 inspired lots of our favorite dishes?  They needed to make food more portable for the fair-goers so they invented ice cream cones, hamburger buns, and hot dogs buns! Who knew the World's Fair was such an inventive place?

We have to give credit where credit is due and I will tell you, I was inspired by the need for portability at the 1904 World's Fair. I chose a dish called Greek Nachos with Feta Drizzle from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook. Bittman says this is a portable way to eat salad, which ticks two boxes for me since it is both a healthy dish and a dish that fits this week's IHCC theme.  

Plus, who doesn't love nachos, of any kind? Bittman's version of Greek Nachos calls for a Feta Drizzle made with: feta, yogurt, lemon juice/zest, olive oil, and mint, blended until smooth. I loved the feta drizzle (I love anything feta), but I also think a tahini sauce would be great! I wanted to keep my version light and healthy so I topped my homemade pita nachos with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, sliced black olives, and sauteed chickpeas. I also love the idea of adding some seasoned ground lamb to the dish.

I really love dishes like this because they please everyone! Chop up tons of veggies, make a couple sauces, have a vegetarian option with chickpeas and some seasoned ground lamb for the meat eaters. Everyone gets to customize their own meal and everyone walks away happy! Nachos for world peace! Nachos for the World's Fair! Nachos for everyone!

Greek Nachos with Feta Drizzle

Adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook

by Mark Bittman

Serves 4-8

4 pitas, split and cut into wedges

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed


4 ounces feta cheese

1/2 cup yogurt, preferably Greek or whole milk

1/2 cup chopped mint

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

black pepper

2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and or sliced

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

Notes: Adapt this recipe to your tastes. I added canned and drained chickpeas that I sauteed with some spices in a little bit of oil. You could add any other veggie, herb, spice, or meat to the dish! Skies the limit.

Heat the oven to 350F. Arrange the pita wedges in one layer on baking sheets and brush or drizzle with oil if you like. Bake, turning as needed, until they begin to color, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, turn off the oven, and put the chips back in the oven to keep warm.

Combine the feta, yogurt, 1/4 cup oil, mint, and lemon zest and juice in a food processor; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Process until smooth (or use a for to combine the ingredients in a bowl).

Put the chips on a serving plate (or use the baking sheets). Top with the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, red onion and drizzle with the feta-yogurt sauce.






World's Fair Food @ IHCC



Saturday, July 3, 2021

Sheet Pan Parmesan Shrimp and Veggies {Summer Slim Down Series #6}

Inspired by the fireworks on the 4th of July, I wanted to make something really colorful that would pop with flavor. When I stumbled across Giada's Sheet Pan Parmesan Shrimp and Veggies... I knew it was perfect. It starts with a colorful arrangement of vegetables: broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, purple onion, and then, of course, the shrimp. Not to mention, roasting veggies and shrimp really helps to bring out the flavor and get everything popping in your mouth, just like the fireworks.

This was one our favorite slim down meals so far this summer! The shrimp are coated with Parmigiano Reggiano, as well as garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. They are oh so delicious served over the flavorful roasted vegetables and make for such a satisfying but somewhat light meal. Plus, it is so easy and comes together so quickly. You can't go wrong. This is totally worth turning your oven on for!

YIt's worth noting that I read the directions wrong and completely removed the veggies from the ssheet pan after they roasted for 15 minutes. I was supposed to leave the veggies on the sheet pan aand continue to roast them when I added the shrimp, but it all worked out ok. Of course, this is also why I have no pictures of the meal on the sheet pan, but nevertheless, it still tasted delicious!

Sheet Pan Parmesan Shrimp and Veggies

Adapted from Eat Better, Feel Better

by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 4

 1 small broccoli crown, cut into 1-inch florets

1 red onion, cut into 1-inch dice

1/2 medium cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets

4 tablespoons olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano*

2 tablespoons panko*

1 lemon

Note: I omitted the oregano and used Italian seasoning, garlic powder and red pepper flakes instead. All to taste, no specific amounts.

 Preheat the oven to 450F. 

In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, onion, cauliflower, tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Spread the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, until cooked through and just beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, combine the shrimp, Parmigiano, oregano, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to the same bowl that was used for the vegetables. Toss well to coat evenly in the cheese and oregano. Remove the vegetables from the oven and scatter the shrimp on top. Stir gently to combine andsprinkle with the panko, if using. 

Return to the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Grate the zest from the lemon over the mixture and toss to combine. Cut the zested lemon into wedges and serve with the shrimp and veggies.


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Breakfast Sandwich {Summer Slim Down Series #5}

These days everyone is all about some sourdough bread. I see it all over YouTube, and in the markets. Then yesterday I saw something that told me EVERYONE really is all about sourdough because I went to our little Georgetown, KY farmers market and there was a whole booth set up just for sourdough! There are only about 10-12 booths and one of them is totally and completely dedicated to sourdough. I couldn't resist buying some! Bonus, because she had it wrapped up real pretty. I am such a sucker for packaging.

Why is sourdough good for you? Well, answers vary, depending on where you look, but they say sourdough is easier to digest, has a lower glycemic index, is better for gluten sensitivity, has more good acid, has healthy bacteria, less yeast, fewer preservatives, and provides good fuel.

Better yet, sourdough has always been my favorite, so this new fad pleases me greatly. I decided to use my sourdough to make Ina's Bacon, Egg, & Cheddar Sandwich from her latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food. To make the recipe healthier and reduce my gluten intake, I made a breakfast toast or an open-faced sandwich. I do this nearly all the time now because my tummy cannot handle much gluten anymore.

Now some may say, "Kim...this is no slim down healthy sandwich." I'll agree that the calorie content is probably on the high side, but I also don't think calories are the only thing we should pay attention to. We have to find healthy ways of incorporating favorites like the breakfast sandwich into a healthier lifestyle and I think this sandwich is perfectly balanced and achieves that goal. I'm also of the firm belief that every once in awhile we need a healthy dose of fats, whether it's healthy fat from avocado or fat from bacon.

Plus, we are representing all the basic food groups here, and using portion control: a slice of sourdough, some sliced avocado, one slice of bacon, two eggs, and two tablespoons of cheese. You are getting a lot of bang for your buck because, this is no sissy sandwich. It is so substantial that you are likely to be full for hours. I tend to look for more substantial healthier meals that keep me from getting hungry and having cravings at inconvenient times because that's when my not-so-healthy impulses tend to get the best of me (chocolate and sugar, I'm talking to you).

Something interesting about Ina's approach to this sandwich recipe is the way she cooks the eggs. Would you believe she cooks them in the microwave? I had to read it and then reread it several times because I could not believe THE Ina Garten cooks her eggs in the microwave AND put it in a cookbook! And you know what? They are oh so creamy and delicious! You'd never guess. She puts the eggs in an oiled bowl and microwaves them at 30-second intervals, stirring between each one, and it works like magic. The eggs are so good! I love this approach and will continue to try it out. I thought this was an incredibly delicious and filling sandwich. I was trying to think about how to describe it and words like  "unctuous and top-quality and so satisfying" came to mind. It's only a few simple ingredients, but you can taste them all so well and they all play together so nicely.

Breakfast Sandwich

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 2

2 slices thick-cut bacon

olive oil

4 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

salt and black pepper

4 tablespoons grated sharp white Cheddar, divided

Bread of some kind: English Muffins, bagels, sourdough bread, etc.

1/2 ripe avocado, thinly sliced

Notes: Ina wrote this recipe as an English muffin sandwich and you can certainly serve it that way or on any other type of bread you fancy. There are so few ingredients here and it does pay to use the best you can buy. I love the Tillamook sharp white Cheddar and can really taste the difference.


To cook the bacon heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally, until nicely browned. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. (I never cook my bacon on the stove top. I always preheat the oven to 375F and lay out all the bacon on a baking sheet and bake around 10-15 minutes, until done to desired level of crispiness).

NEW METHOD FOR COOKING EGGS: Meanwhile, generously brush two small microwavable bowls (about 4 inches in diameter) with olive oil and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour half of the egg mixture into each of the two oiled bowls and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir the eggs gently with a fork to combine the cooked parts with the uncooked parts. Continue to microwave and stir at 30-second intervals, until the eggs are puffed and almost cooked through. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the Cheddar in each bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese and finish cooking the eggs.

Meanwhile, toast the English muffins, or bread of your choice, until nicely browned. Place the bottom half of each toasted English muffin, or bread of your choice, on a plate. Layer half of the avocado slices on each one and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Break the bacon strips in half and place two halves on each sandwich. Slide the eggs, cheese side up, on top of the bacon, and sprinkle a tablespoon of the remaining Cheddar on each sandwich. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with the tops of the toasted English muffins. Serve hot.

Souper Sundays @Kahakai Kitchen

Summer Sammies @ IHCC

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Broccoli & Kale Salad {Summer Slim Down Series #4}

I've been wanting to make this hearty vegetable salad ever since I got my hands on a copy of Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten. The trouble with recipes like this is that they take quite a bit of work and time and I'm usually the only one who will eat them. So after I fool with making something like this, I then have to turn around and cook something more "normal" for the family.

Look, this might not seem like a lot of work and dirty dishes, but it really truly is. First, you have to destem all the broccoli and boil it in a pot, then you'll need a bowl of ice water just for the broccoli, because Ina wants you to blanch it - exactly after 4 minutes of cooking.

Then you need to wash and trim all the ribs off a bunch of kale and julienne the kale. Get out your salad spinner because you'll have to dry the kale as well.

Then, if you made this recipe exactly as written she would have you making a homemade Caesar dressing. I'm dieting and I needed a lighter version, so I went ahead and used my store-bought favorite, Ken's Light Caesar. I feel accomplished because I saved a step.

After all that, she wants you to make your own croutons, so cut up some bread and get out yet another pan and saute up some homemade croutons. Fine, Ina. It's really easy enough.

Then she wants you to get out yet another pan to boil the eggs. For crying out loud, Ina! Why can't we just save a step and use the pan we boiled the broccoli in? I like you Ina, but I really feel like you should mention this and save people some dishes. Sheesh!

Then you get out another bowl and toss all the veggies and cheese and croutons in the dressing and top with the 6-1/2 minute eggs. Then you need 6 bowls so you can divide the salad into bowls and top with the eggs. Take care to cut the egg in half over the salad or you might lose some of the golden goodness on a cutting board instead of on your salad. Also, take note, Ina likes to call this a 6-1/2 minute egg, but my eggs could've used another minute, so maybe do a little practicing to see what works for you.

One plus about this salad is that it would make a lovely lunch or dinner for entertaining. You could prep all the ingredients beforehand and toss it altogether when the guests arrived. You could also prep all these ingredients and then meal prep this salad for lunches throughout the week. In fact, that's what I will likely do. This salad is hearty, healthy, beautiful, and delicious, but it will yield an entire sink of dirty dishes and a rather messy kitchen so be forewarned!

Broccoli & Kale Salad

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten 

Serves 6

salt and black pepper

8 cups broccoli florets, stems removed (2 bunches)

1 bunch baby kale

Caesar Salad dressing (recipe follows)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 to 2 lemons)

1 cup Toasted Croutons (recipe follows)

1/4 cup grated Italian Parmesan cheese

6 extra-large eggs

Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil and fill with ice water. Add the broccoli to the boiling water and cook for exactly 4 minutes. Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl of ice water. When cool, drain well and transfer to a large bowl.

Remove and discard any hard ribs from the kale, stack the leaves on top of each other, and thinly julienne them crosswise. Add to the bowl with the broccoli.

Add enough Caesar Dressing to moisten the broccoli and kale and toss well. Add the croutons, lemon juice, and Parmesan. Divide the salad among six dinner plates.

Meanwhile, fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil (I used the same pan I boiled the broccoli in). With a spoon, carefully lower each of the eggs into the boiling water and lower the heat until the water is at a low simmer. (You don't want the eggs knocking around in the pot or they will crack.) Cook the eggs for 6-1/2 minutes exactly, remove them from the saucepan, run them under cool water, and peel. Place one egg on each salad, cut it in half, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Caesar Salad Dressing

2 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, at room temperature

2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)

10 anchovy fillets

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, at room temperature (2 - 3 lemons)

salt and pepper

1-1/2 cups good mild olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese

Place the egg yolks, mustard, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube (as though you were making mayonnaise) and process until thick. Add the Parmesan and pulse 3 times to combine.

Toasted Croutons

good olive oil

2-1/2 ounces country white bread, 1/2" diced

salt and black pepper

Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small 8-inch saute pan and heat over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the bread and saute, tossing occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until evenly browned. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. 


Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen







Sunday, June 6, 2021

Simple Sorbetto {Summer Slim Down Series #3}


In the summer everyone has to have a way to cool down. Ice cream, slushies, snow cones, sundaes, fresh squeezed lemonade, or maybe even a sweet iced tea are all delicious ways. The trouble is, they aren't necessarily good for the waistline. There is either too much fat or too much sugar. We need a way to cool down and stay cooled down. A recipe that is so good you will forego all the above mentioned treats.

In walks Giada's Simple Sorbetto, and it couldn't be simpler. A frozen bag of mixed berries, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and a pinch of salt. Be sure to use true maple syrup, none of the corn syrup stuff. Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that contains minerals and antioxidants such as calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and manganese and it doesn't spike your blood sugar as fast as regular old-fashioned sugar does. 

A quick whirl in the blender and you are ready to enjoy! This is a healthier way to enjoy a cool treat in the summer. The best part is you can make lots of different versions. This time around I followed the directions and used a bag of frozen mixed berries, but I think I'd love a mango version (maybe with honey instead of maple syrup) and I'd also love to try a cherry version. I'd also like to experiment with adding a touch of Greek yogurt to the mix, just to add in some protein and creaminess.

This is a definite make again!

Simple Sorbetto

Adapted from Eat Better, Feel Better

by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 2-4

1 (10-ounce) bag frozen mixed berries

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon vodka (optional)

Combine the berries, maple syrup, salt, and vodka (if using), in a blender. Pulse the mixture to create a coarse puree. Scrape down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula. Continue to pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until smooth and scoopable.

Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to a week.


Classic Summer Dishes @ I Heart Cooking Clubs

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Ina Garten's Penne with Five Cheeses


I know that I've been going on and on about lightening up and being more healthy, but every once in awhile there is going to be a splurge.

There are a couple types of food that I seem to buy endless quantities of: pasta, granola, eggs, and about every single cheese known to man. You will never catch me running out of any of those ingredients. I buy these ingredients like it's my job. Lately, my cheese drawers have been exploding and cheese is waging war on the rest of the fridge.

I stumbled across Ina's Penne with Five Cheeses and it's a dish I've always wanted to make. Who can resist a dish of pasta swimming in a light tomato sauce and bubbling with cheese? 

I had everything on hand. All 5 cheeses and then some: Pecorino, Gorgonzola, Ricotta, Fontina and Mozzarella. This dish was finally going to happen!

This recipe is so easy and delicious! The pasta comes together in no time. All you have to do is preheat the oven, parboil some penne for a few minutes, and mix together the cream, cheeses, and tomato sauce. I added a few pinches of herbs and garlic powder to liven things up a bit. Then you mix the parboiled pasta into the cheese mixture and bake for about 10-12 minutes. The result is absolute perfection! I love how the tips of the pasta turn a crispy golden brown. The whole dish is so inviting!

My daughter came down as this was coming out of the oven and she said, "This pasta looks way better than anything from a restaurant and I have to get some pictures of it."  Upon first bite she was like, "oh my...this dish is dangerously good." So, if you're up for a splurge,  then this is definitely worthy. It is beyond decadent and delicious.


Penne with Five Cheeses

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa website

by Ina Garten

Serves 6


2 cups heavy cream

1 cup crushed tomatoes in thick tomato puree

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano 

1/2 cup shredded imported Italian Fontina

1/4 cup crumbled Italian Gorgonzola

2 tablespoons ricotta cheese

1/4 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced

6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 pound imported penne rigate pasta

4 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot. Combine all the ingredients except the penne and butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix Well.

Drop the penne into the boiling water and parboil for 4 minutes. Drain well in a colander and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl, tossing to combine.

Divide the pasta mixture among 6 shallow ceramic gratin dishes (1-1/2 to 2-cup capacity). Dot with the butter and bake until bubbly and brown on top, 7 to 10 minutes.



Thursday, May 27, 2021

Cold Soba Sesame Salad {Summer Slim Down Series #2}

One of my goals with my Summer Slim Down Series is trying out fresh and healthy recipes that will keep well for lunches throughout the busy work week. This recipe for Cold Soba Sesame Salad from Gina Homolka's Skinnytaste Meal Prep Cookbook definitely falls into that category. This is a light and exciting meal that can be enjoyed at home, packed up for a picnic, or prepped into containers for lunches throughout the week.

This recipe wins an award for versatility. You can trade out any of the vegetables and make this your own. For example, I didn't have broccoli so I used fresh sliced cucumber instead. You can keep this all veggie and serve it with crushed peanuts and/or a soft boiled egg. You can also add some flaked salmon or shredded chicken or thinly sliced steak. I think you could easily make a new version of this salad each and every time!

This is a stunning salad, so vibrant and inviting with all the colors of the rainbow. I also love that it is served cold, which is very light and refreshing on a hot summer day. This is one of those meals that is the perfectly balanced, managing to be both light yet filling. I will definitely be making this again!


Cold Soba Sesame Salad

Recipe adapted from Skinnytaste Meal Prep

by Gina Homolka

Serves 4


8 ounces dry soba noodles (I used buckwheat)

1 cup bite-sized broccoli florets*

1/2 cup sugar snap peas, cut into thirds*

1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup grated or shredded carrots

3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

crushed roasted peanuts, for serving


1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons mirin

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger*

1 garlic clove, minced*

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, plus1 teaspoon garnish

Notes: This is an extremely versatile recipe. Use whatever veggies you have on hand. I didn't have broccoli so I subbed in sliced cucumber which worked nicely. I also think the dressing is somewhat mild and next time I would use more fresh ginger and garlic to pump up the flavors. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil (do not add salt). Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions. Add the broccoli and peas about 1 minute before the noodles are ready, then drain together in a large colander and rinse with cold water for about 30 seconds, agitating with your hands.

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, miring, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, Sriracha, and sesame seeds.

To serve: Divide the noodles, broccoli, and peas among 4 shallow bowls, about 1-1/2 cups each, and top with bell pepper, carrots, scallions, and cilantro. Top each with about 2-1/2 tablespoons of the dressing, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and peanuts, and serve right away.



Sunday, May 23, 2021

Giada's Red, White, And Blue Salad {Summer Slim Down Series #1}!


With the Memorial Day holiday coming up this weekend, it is officially the beginning of summer, which also means....NO WORK FOR ME UNTIL MID AUGUST! Woohoo! After a whirlwind year of teaching during the pandemic, I am over the moon for a break!

I'm also in the middle of a pretty big lifestyle change, hence the Summer Slim Down Series. In an effort to get more healthy, I'm going to be experimenting with some healthier ingredients and new recipes over summer break, while I have the time.

So, this recipe marks the beginning of my Summer Slim Down Series and this recipe for Giada's Red, White, and Blue Salad is Summer Slim Down Series #1.

Originally I had this salad tagged to make for July 4th, but I was actually on the ball and realized I could make this for Memorial Day. Yeah, me!

One goal that I have this summer is to make some interesting main dish salads and this salad is a perfect example of that, a hearty mix of fruit, cheese, and nuts. This perfect summer holiday salad gets the red from the grapes, blue from blueberries, and white from the Gorgonzola. It also has some crunchy and salty pistachios and some diced quick pickled cucumber and is tossed in a champagne and mustard vinaigrette. It is healthy and beautiful but also light and satisfying at the same time.

I love a good salad with fruit, cheese, and nuts and this one doesn't disappoint. It has sweetness from the fruit and some acidic tanginess from the dressing and the cucumber quick pickles. I love the little nubs of sharp Gorgonzola and the salty crunchy bites with the pistachios. 

I would take this to any summer potluck and toss it with the dressing right before serving. I would definitely make this again! 

Red, White, And Blue Salad

Adapted from Eat Better, Feel Better

by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 6

For The Quick Pickle

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 English cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)

For The Salad

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon whole-grain or Dijon mustard 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 heads of radicchio, chopped*

1-1/2 cups red grapes, halved

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup chopped roasted and lightly salted pistachios

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola Piccante

Notes: I couldn't find radicchio in the shops so it was omitted.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Place the cucumber in a small bowl. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and salt. Add the radicchio, endive, grapes, and blueberries. Toss well to coat. Drain the cucumber and sprinkle it over the top along with the pistachios and Gorgonzola. Toss one last time and serve.