Monday, April 8, 2013

One Bold Flavor: Weekly Menu 4/8/13

Easier Simpler Better Weekly Menu: family friendly dinners with bold flavors

Hello friends! Were you away on a spring break trip recently like we were? While out of town, we ate out for every lunch and dinner, so by the time we came home, I was looking forward to home-cooked meals. But after eating a lot of restaurant meals, what comes out of your own kitchen can seem pretty bland by comparison.

This week's recipes have something in common - each dish features at least one BOLD flavor, such as pesto, balsamic vinegar or hoisin sauce. What do I mean by bold? Rich, complex, sweet, creamy, tart, bright... the kind of flavors that will wake you up for spring.

Need some other recipes with bold flavors? Try these past faves:


Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

Pasta with Pestor Cream Sauce and Diced Tomatoes
 The original recipe called for homemade pesto sauce, but I substituted some awesome pesto from a local farmer's market and that really streamlined this dish. This was a huge hit in our house.

Sides: Simple green salad with a vinaigrette

  • Use high quality pre-grated Parmesan cheese
 Make Ahead Notes
  • Dice tomatoes and refigerate
  • Fill pot with water and place on stove for cooking pasta later
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup high quality prepared pesto sauce (use the amount based on your taste - you can add gradually to the cream-butter mixture to see how much you like)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 12 ounces dried pasta (a shape such as cavitappi, fusilli)
  • 2 whole tomatoes, diced
  • Cook pasta until al dente.
  • Heat cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add pesto and stir. 
  • Drain pasta and place in a serving bowl. Pour pesto cream over the top. Toss to combine. Add diced tomatoes and toss quickly. Serve immediately.
Adapted recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Soy-Balsamic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary

Soy Balsamic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary
Your kitchen will smell like heaven while this is cooking.

Sides: Couscous or mashed potatoes - something to soak up that sauce!

Make Ahead Notes
  • Mix first 5 ingredients (vinegar through pepper) in baking dish and set aside for later
  • Chop rosemary
  • Peel and chop shallots
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • black pepper
  • One 3.5- to 4-pound chicken, cut into pieces (cut breasts through bone in half horizontally)
  • 8 shallots, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Heat oven to 425° F. Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, rosemary, honey, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a 9-by-13-inch or another shallow 3-quart baking dish. Add the chicken, turn to coat, and place skin-side down.
  • Toss the shallots with the oil in a medium bowl and arrange on top of the chicken.
  • Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Turn the pieces skin-side up and continue to roast, basting occasionally, until the shallots are tender, the chicken is glazed, and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh registers 165° F, 15 to 20 minutes more. (Tent the dish loosely with foil if the chicken browns too quickly.) 
  • OPTIONAL: Preheat the broiler. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil on the middle rack of the oven just until the skin is crisp, about 4 minutes.
Adapted recipe from Real Simple

Sesame Pork Wraps

Sesame Pork with Hoisin Sauce and Green Onions in Wraps with edamame
This is a go-to recipe in our house that's fun to eat and can be made spicier or saucier at the table, depending on your tastes. I always double this recipe.

Sides: Steamed edamame beans, pan-fried pot stickers

  • Use jarred, grated fresh ginger (usually found near jarred, minced garlic in grocery stores)
Make Ahead Notes
  • Combine oil, ginger, salt, pepper, and garlic in bag and add pork (already trimmed and cut into strips); marinate all day if needed
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 moo shu shells or flour tortillas
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • Sliced green onions
  • Trim fat from pork, and cut into thin strips. Combine pork and next 5 ingredients (pork through garlic) in a zip-top heavy-duty plastic bag; seal bag, and shake well to coat. Marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes or longer as needed.
  • Heat moo shu shells or tortillas according to package directions.
  • Coat a medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray; and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add pork mixture; stir-fry 4 minutes or until done. Do not overcook the pork! It should still be slightly pink in the middle to keep it juicy.
  • Divide pork mixture evenly among warm moo shu shells or tortillas. Drizzle hoisin sauce over pork mixture, add green onions and roll up.
 Adapted recipe from Cooking Light

Extra Credit: Chickpea & Spring Green Salad

Chickpeas with Spring Green Salad and a Lemon Vinaigrette
This salad was so good, I made it twice in one week recently after trying it. It's a great side dish, but would also be perfect for lunch on its own or with soup.

Make Ahead Notes
  • Drain and rinse beans, allow to dry a bit
  • Slice green onions and radishes
  • Grate cheese
  • Combine vinaigrette ingredients
  • One 15-oz can of chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
  • 3 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves, washed and spun dry (arugula is a good addition too)
  • 6 green onions thinly sliced, bulbs + greens included
  • 3 medium radishes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • 1 oz semi-hard cheese, freshly grated, such as Asiago or Pecorino 
For vinaigrette
  • Zest & juice from one small lemon
  • 5 – 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Generous amounts salt (about 1/2 tsp) & freshly ground pepper (about 1 tsp)
  • In a large bowl combine chickpeas, spinach, green onions and radishes. Toss to mix.
  • In a small bowl, combine lemon zest & juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper. Whisk well to combine and emulsify the oil. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  • Drizzle vinaigrette over salad, tossing as you go; stop adding when most of the spinach leaves are coated, but there is no dressing gathering at the bottom of the bowl (I used only about half the total amount of dressing). Reserve remaining dressing. Toss well and allow the spinach leaves to wilt slightly; add grated cheese and toss again. Cheese should dissolve into the dressing somewhat, making the dressing richer but without adding an overall cheese flavor. Taste and adjust amounts of vinaigrette, cheese, salt or pepper. Serve immediately.
Adapted recipe from Local Kitchen blog

Monday, April 1, 2013

Slow Cooking for Weeknights: Weekly Menu 4/1/13

 Crock pot pork, beef and chicken family friendly dinners

Do your weeknight evenings involve shuttling kids to and from sports practices, games, theater rehearsals or other activities right during dinnertime? This seems to be a theme in our household right now as I have two kids playing softball and my husband is head coaching both teams, which breaks up a typical dinner routine on most days. Since many of you seem to be in the same boat, I thought I'd round up the slow cooker dinner recipes that I've tried with great results over the last year, all in one place.

Cook slow, eat well... enjoy!

Balsamic Brown Sugar Pork

Browned, tender slow cooker pork seasoned with Balsmic vinegar and brown sugar

This is probably the most popular recipe featured on this blog. Try it and I can almost guarantee it will be in regular rotation in your house.

Cole slaw and rolls

  • Use a "cole slaw kit," which is a bag of shredded cabbage with a pouch of dressing included. Fresh Express is an option.

Make Ahead Notes:
  • Prep the glaze ahead and reheat when you need it toward the end of the pork's cooking time
  • Cut up watermelon for a side dish
  • Slice the rolls
  • 1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  1. Mix together sage, salt, pepper, and garlic.
  2. Rub the mixture over the pork. Add it to the slow cooker and pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. One hour before the pork is cooked, put the brown sugar, cornstarch, balsamic, water, and soy sauce in a sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a bubble over medium heat. It will thicken.
  4. Pour half of the glaze over the pork. Reserve the rest to serve alongside.
  5. Cook the pork for another hour.
  6. Shred the pork with a fork. It will fall apart, it is so tender.
  7. Serve with the remaining glaze.
 Originally found on BakedBree

Slow Cooker Shredded Salsa Verde Beef

A slow cooker recipe that has less than five ingredients, if you don't count the toppings. Can't get much easier than that on a weeknight.

Sides: Corn bread, guacamole and any other toppings you like, such as shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, hot sauce and lettuce

  • 2 lbs boneless beef chuck roast (or any humble beef roast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups salsa verde (I used Herdez Salsa Verde)
  • Tortillas
  • Place roast in crock pot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Pour salsa verde over roast.
  • Cover, and cook on Low for 8 hours. When done, the roast should shred easily with a fork.

Recipe from

Crock Pot Mongolian Beef

Mongolian Beef cooked in crock pot and served over rice with choped scallions
The sweet-salty combo of the sauce in this made it a winner with kids.

Sides: Rice and sauteed snow peas

  • Use jarred, minced ginger, usually found near jarred garlic
  • Use jarred, minced garlic
  • Buy bagged shredded carrots
Make Ahead Notes
  • Cut steak and refrigerate for later
  • Chop green onions

  • 1.5 pounds beef flank steak, cut into stir fry sized strips
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 3 medium green onions, chopped
  • Coat flank steak pieces in cornstarch. Add remainder of ingredients to crock pot and stir well to combine. 
  • Place flank steak into the crock pot and cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-5 hours. Serve over rice or noodles, if desired.
Recipe from Once a Month Mom

Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken

Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken with rice and scallions
This was an ideal meal to eat before shuttling kids to practices on a weeknight.
Sides: White or brown rice and steamed broccoli or sauteed sugar snap peas

Make Ahead Notes
  • Chop onion and refrigerate for later
  • Combine onion, garlic, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, canola oil and pepper (if using) and set aside for later
  • Buy pre-chopped onion from the produce section
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts 
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 C onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 C honey (I used only 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 C ketchup
  • 1/2 C soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/3 C water
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper and place in crock pot.
  • In a bowl, combine onion, garlic, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, oil and red pepper flakes (if using).Pour mixture over chicken.
  • Cook on low for 3-4 hours or high for 2 hour.
  • Remove chicken and shred.
  • In a small bowl combine cornstarch and water.
  • Pour sauce from crock pot into a sauce pan and add in the cornstarch mixture. Stir to combine over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring often.
  • Pour sauce over chicken.
  • Serve over rice and top with toasted sesame seeds and green onions.
This recipe is all over the Internet, but I grabbed it from