Thursday, June 30, 2016

Rustic Chicken Marsala Bake and Rocker Chick

For Father's Day this year, I decided to ditch the usual golf gifts for my husband and treated him to concert tickets to two of his favorite bands;  Styx and Boston.  They happen to both be playing the same venue and night in Denver which resulted in the best date night ever!

I am a girl of the 70's and 80's.  I grew up with big hair bands, big speakers and a lot of rock'n roll! My very first concert was Motley Crue in San Diego when I was 14 years old...I remember it like it was yesterday. Watching Tommy Lee spinning around with his entire drum stage like a roller coaster (while playing a solo set) was like nothing this small town Alaska girl had ever seen!  Super Cool!!

My husband and I had an abosolute blast watching both bands and I got to release my inner rocker chick once again (yes, even at 50 years old)!  Both bands were like listening to them as if time had never passed...awesome, just awesome and so much fun!  Pure talent from both bands and a show that we will cherish for a very long time.

Many years ago I had a friend I worked with who was an avid concert goer in the L.A. scene.  She and her guy friend started collecting memorabelia at the concerts they attended;  drumsticks, pics, song set lists, etc.  They would just go up to the stage after the concert and get whatever they could find, then go home and make a CD of songs (pre iTunes days) that were played during the concert.

She got me started on doing the same thing and we now have a collection of souvenirs as well.  I tried my hand at getting the set lists for both bands that night but struck out...however, I chatted it up with one of Boston's roadies and he was nice enough to hand over both bands' itinerary for that day.  Well, it's not a set list, but it's something for us to remember the most amazing night ever!

Another favorite of my husband's is Chicken Marsala. He absolutely loves this dish.  In the past I have made him Mushroom Marsala Ravioli and Steak Marsala.  This time I thought I would try out a new version of Chicken Marsala...I stumbled on the recipe in Pinterest, of course and now it's one of our go-to favorite casserole dishes.

Rustic Chicken Marsala Bake
Adapted from of

*These portions below make an 8"x8" baking dish - I doubled this recipe for a 9x11 baking dish.

1/2 pound penne pasta, boiled to al dente and drained
2 Tbl. olive oil
6 Tbl. butter
3 Tbl. flour
1 cup Marsala wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup half-and-half (or heavy whipping cream)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
1 chicken breast, cut in half, grilled and sliced
4 ounces of pancetta, diced (or small cubes)
12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely minced

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8x8 square (or 8x10 oval) baking dish with non-stick spray.  Cook pasta as directed and drain.

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan, add pancetta and cook until slightly crispy on both sides.  Add mushrooms and garlic, cook until mushrooms are tender.  Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour.  Gradually stir in Marsala wine and boil for 2-3 minutes to cook out the alcohol.  Slowly stir in chicken broth.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; remove from heat.  Stir in half-and-half, grated cheese, chicken, pancetta and mushrooms.

In a large bowl, add pasta and chicken mixture together; toss gently to mix well.  Spoon into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with freshly grated cheese.  Bake uncovered about 20 minutes or until hot in the center and to is slightly golden.

**You may also broil the top with the oven on low for 3-5 minutes.

Enjoy and Rock On!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Farm Spinach Salad with Peppers and Capers

Remember a few months ago I shared with you my conspiracy theory on Invasion of the Body Snatchers at my house?  Well, the other morning as I was enjoying the early sunrise fresh air and a cup of coffee out on my patio, my suspicions came true!

I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  This giant stalk has magically shown up overnight in the corner of our yard.  I have no idea what this plant (or creature) is!

It is about three feet tall and does not resemble anything else in our yard or the neighborhood for that matter.  Now perhaps I am a little behind on my landscaping duties and weeding, but really? What the heck is this thing?  All I know's outta here ASAP, before it snatches my body too!!

Anyway, I digress...

Last month was our 19th wedding anniversary.  The actual day came during the middle of the week, so we really didn't feel like going out on a "school night", as we say.  I was up for trying some new recipes and playing with new ingredients.  I found a tasting menu dinner for my inspiration, from a world renowned restaurant in Boulder called The Kitchen.  Their focus is on farm-to-table menus with tastes of the season, served family style.

I decided to try my hand at recreating their seasonal menu with my own spin for our special dinner that night.

Anniversary Menu

 Farm Spinach Salad - Spinach Leaves, Parmesean, Capers, 
Bell Peppers & Peppercorn Dressing

House Made Tagliatelle - Bacon, Asparagus, Sunchoke Cream & Parmesean

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Almonds - Fingerling Potatoes, Crimini Mushrooms

Orange Olive Oil Cake - Orange Coulis & Pistachio Chantilly

I have to admit, I was pretty excited about how everything turned out...(check back to see future posts for remaining recipes soon). Wonderful fresh ingredients with so many different layers of flavors... and let's just face it, anything that I put capers in, I get the "Wife of the Year" award!

Cure Farm Spinach Salad
Courtesy (and adapted from) The Kitchen, Boulder

Spinach Leaves, stems off
Shaved Parmesean Cheese
Capers, drained
Orange, Red and/or Yellow Bell Peppers, thinly sliced
Peppercorn Dressing (your favorite brand)

In a large salad serving bowl, toss all ingredients until well combined and serve on chilled salad plates.

** The Kitchen also incluced (Radishes, thinly sliced and Fennel, thinly sliced) in their menu's salad version. A little too strong of flavors for me, so I opted to keep them out and the salad was still amazing.  If you like radishes and fennel though, I'm sure it would also be terrific.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Strawberry Banana Smoothie Popsicles and Strawberry Moon

This week marked the official start of summer with the annual Solstice and a "Once in a Generation" viewing of The Strawberry Moon.  We are typically early to bed in our house, so I didn't get to see the actual Strawberry Moon in person.  I did however get to witness these mesmerizing twin rainbows after one of our early evening storms that have been showing up like clockwork.  I love seeing Mother Nature's beautiful artwork.

...and speaking of strawberries, these frozen yogurt popsicles are out of this world yummy for summertime.  Since half the country is having record breaking high temperatures this week (including us), these little treats will instantly cool you down.  I was super excited to find these molds last summer...I love how it has the catch (drip) tray within the handle.  As hot as it has been, they may try to melt in your hand before you can finish them off.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie Popsicles

1 cup strawberries
1 banana
1/2 cup Greek, vanilla flavored yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tbl. honey

In a blender, add all ingredients and process until smooth.  Pour mixture into popsicle molds.  Place in freezer for approximatley 6-8 hours, until fully frozen.

That's it...couldn't be any more simple!  Enjoy your summer!!!

One Year Ago: Alma's Mac and Cheese

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Grilled Lemon Chicken Flatbread Wraps and Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads, stepdads, grandfathers, brothers, and uncles...may it be a wonderful and relaxing day to all of you out there.

I was blessed to have received a very special gift and dad.  God Bless him...He came into my mom's life at the most perfect time but unfortunately got me at my worst possible time...teenage years.  I don't know how he put up with my moods and attitude but thank God he never gave up on me.

He has forever been the most thoughtful, gracious and giving man I have met.  Always willing to lend a hand to anyone that needs it and never asks for anything in return.

He is known to my girls as "Papa".  Papa has spoiled them with love, memories and special gifts whenever he visits.  He gave them their first bright red 3 wheel'n tricycle.  He has taken them for visits to the Pumpkin Patch to pick out their very own pumpkins and also experience the petting zoos during Apple Days Festivals.  One Easter week he showed up with the most precious stuffed bunnies that moved and told stories...cutest gift ever!

He also introduced them to "Ben Franklin" at a very young age...and I don't mean sharing the history of being one of the Founding Fathers...I mean sharing a $100 bill...with each one of them!  They light up like a Christmas tree with smiles from ear to ear.   Like I said...spoiled!

One time when my mom was out of town, I tried to be the responsible young teenager lady and make dinner for my dad and brother.  I was fairly new to the whole cooking responsibilities and tried my hand at "Shake'n Bake" chicken.  Apparently, as the story goes, it was not one of my finest dishes and quite inedible. Well, what can I say, girl's gotta start somewhere....

Today, I like to think that I have improved on my culinary skills since then.  Here's a chicken dish that I think my dad would approve of.  It was a really easy and great dish for dinner.  I served it with baked onion rings...anything with onion rings a dad would like, right?

Grilled Lemon Chicken Flatbread Wraps with Spicy Garlic Sauce
Adapted from

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed into bite-size pieces
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
zest of 1 lemon (about 1 Tablespoon)
1 Tbl. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
pinch of black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. paprika
4 Naan flatbreads (or pita bread
mixed salad greens
sliced tomatoes
diced zucchini
diced cucumber
crumbled feta cheese
Spicy Garlic Sauce (recipe below)

Place the cubed chicken into a medium-size bowl, and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil;  add in the garlic, plus remainder of ingredients up to (and including) the paprika, using your hands , toss all the seasonings/spices very well to coat the chicken.

Using 4 skewers, skewer the chicken so that there is equal portions of meat on each skewer, and allow the chicken to marinate for about 20 minutes, or even better, overnight.

When ready to grill, place a grill pan over medium heat (or use your outdoor grill), and drizzle in a little oil;  once the oil gets hot, place the chicken skewers into the pan, and cook them for about 6-8 minutes, turning them occasionally so that they get a bit charred on all sides or until cooked through;  allow them to rest, lightly covered with foil for about 5-10 minutes; then remove the chicken cubes from the skewers and set aside.

To assemble, add a little drizzle of the Spicy Garlic Sauce onto the flatbread, followed by greens, sliced tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and one skewer of lemon chicken. Drizzle a little more of the sauce over chicken and top with a few bits of feta cheese.

Truth be told, I could probably take on a sheet pan of those
onion rings, dipped in this sauce and not even apologize for it...
the sauce is that good!!

Spicy Garlic Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2-3 tsp. sriracha (or Frank's Hot Sauce)
1 tsp. salt
pinch of black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients to medium-size bowl.  Whisk together until completely smooth and creamy.  Let fuse and get those ingredients happy for about 30 minutes, covered in refrigerator before use.

One Year Ago: Alma's Mac and Cheese
Two Years Ago: Grilled Caesar Salad

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Basil, Bacon and Peach Baked Brie and "The Bee Sting"

It's been almost two years since I started having knee issues and "Old Ladyitis".  I recently reached a point where my knee brace was no longer doing the trick and I needed to take it to the next level...a nice little visit with an Orthopedic Specialist (hate getting old!)

After an x-ray that shows some deteriorating cartilage (or as he put it, "looks like paint peeling off a wall underneath your knee cap), eeewww!!  "Let's try a cortisone shot to see if that takes down the burning and swelling."  Okay, that sounded good to problem.  I've had cortisone shots before in my hip and they weren't too bad.

On my back I go and knee up.  He then proceeds to move my knee cap around like he's shifting gears in his Porsche!  It hurt so bad, I wanted to channel my inner-most Billy Blanks and give him my best Tae-Bo kick with the other leg!

The best line of the day was, "Okay, here comes the bee sting", he prepares me.  Now mind you, I have never been stung by a bee, so I have no idea what he is trying to describe.  There it goes...the twelve inch bee sting that burned so bad it took everything in me not to scream.  All I can say is, my midnight spinal epidural for my twins c-section was nothing compared to this shot!

My sad little band aid for the "bee sting". 
Which by the way, do you really need that much iodine 
for one little shot?...really??
I didn't think I would ever get it to wash off.

As I pouted and limped around for the next few days, I made this quick and easy baked brie for one of our patio nosh dinners.  Paired it with a beautiful Pinot Noir, apples and Triscuit crackers...(and ice pack for my "bee sting").

Basil, Bacon & Peach Baked Brie
Adapted from

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1 8 oz. round of Brie cheese
2 slices of cooked, thick bacon, crumbled
2 Tbls. fresh basil, sliced chiffonade
1/4 cup peach jam
1 egg, beaten for wash

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lay out sheet of puff pastry on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Place round of cheese in the middle of pastry (rind may be left on)

Top with peach jam, basil and bacon crumbles.

Bring up the edges of the pastry and work your way around making tucks in the dough.

Press to make sure edges are sealed.

Brush with beaten egg over top and sides.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

**Serve with crackers, sliced pears or apples, or baguette slices.

One Year Ago: Alma's Mac and Cheese
Two Years Ago: Fajita Salad

Friday, June 10, 2016

Caprese Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Reduction and The 2 AM Towel

My husband and I recently coined a phrase for our new home accessory...."The 2 AM Towel".  I'm thinking I may try to market it to all 50+ year olds!  You never know, it may show up on "As Seen On TV" informercials.

Our family room has the most comfortable sofa sectional in it, complete with a chaise end.  It fits all four of us perfectly.  One daughter has claimed the chaise (don't even think of trying to sit on that area, when I say it is is hers!!).  My husband has his favorite area, the other daughter likes the intersection corner and tucks herself like a baby kangaroo, I like the end real estate where I can stretch out and relax my legs on the giant ottoman.

The unfortunate part of the family room is all the cable, stereo, wi-fi, phone equipment is compactly stored in one cabinet.  This same said cabinet has rippled glass doors.  At 2 AM when you are having your (his or hers) insomnia attack, the 37 equipment lights magnify through the glass doors.  Some nights it is so bright you feel like the USS Enterprise is coming at you warp speed...hence, the invention of the 2 AM towel. It's not pretty, but it is very effective!  The next time you are awake at 2 AM surf through the never know, you may see the towel and hear "but wait, there's more...!"

Glad to know that some residents in our house 
have no problem sleeping. I'm so jealous!!

If you are suffering from sleep deprivation and needing a quick dinner so you can go to bed early and catch up on those zzzz's, this chicken dish is the ticket!  Super, super quick, minimal ingredients, extra flavorful and a great all around go to dinner!

Caprese Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Reduction
Adapted from

6 grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl. butter
6 slices mozzarella cheese
6 slices tomato
6 large basil leaves

Prepare chicken on the grill.  As chicken is cooking, pour balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan or skillet and cook until reduced by half.  Add in butter and stir with a flat whisk until completely combined. Set aside.

Top chicken with mozzarella cheese, basil leaf, and then tomato slice.

Drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve warm.

Good Night and Sleep Tight!

One Year Ago: Asian Shrimp Salad
Two Years Ago: Fajita Salad

Monday, June 6, 2016

Olive Cheese Bread, Washers and Dryers and Ice Makers, Oh My!!!!

When life brings you make lemonade.  When life has all your appliances break down at end up at the laundromat for 2 weeks straight!!

My husband has impeccable taste in appliances...European appliances of course!!  We truly have been blessed that aside from a tune-up here and there, over the last 10 years they have run perfect!  As you recall my handyman really comes to the rescue when needed.

A few weeks ago our washer completely stopped...long story short, it required "the professionals" and thank God was fixable with somewhat minimum financial damage.  I was never so happy to hear running water in the washer again.  I excitedly put our first freshly washed clothes in the dryer.  The dryer timer buzzed and I went to pull the load out to start folding.  Sopping wet clothes!!...."NO !!!!", I screamed.  In less than 24 hours of getting the washer fixed....the dryer goes.

I was not looking forward to spending more afternoons and evenings at the laundromat, or as my husband affectionately called it "The Winedromat", when I asked him to bring me a flask, during one of my laundry visits this point, I had reached my limit of hauling around rolls of quarters that weighed more than my bottle of Purex detergent.  Given the clientele that frequent there, we decided probably not a good idea to have tailgating happy hour in the parking lot during the rinse and spin cycles.

Again my handyman came to the rescue and now the dryer situation was workable with my "in- house" team.  So, a simple part the size of my thumb brought heated clothing, sheets and towels and happiness back into the house again.....until the ice maker quit!!!

Well again, by the Grace of God and a wonderful extended warranty service plan from Lowe's, the ice maker parts and labor were 100% covered and all I had to do was sign the dotted line and get a "thank you M'aam", from our wonderful repair person...all I could think was, "No, thank you"!!!

In the midst of all my special visits at "the winedromat", I found ample time during spinning and drying cycles to catch up on my Pinterest pages and discovered this new amazing bread appetizer or side for your lunch or dinner.  Yum, Yum, Yum!!!

Olive Cheese Bread
Adapted from Home In The Finger Lakes

1 loaf french or baguette bread
25 Spanish Queen pimento stuffed olives, chopped
6 ounce can of black olives, chopped
1 stalk of green onions (scallions), diced
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Slice french bread lengthwise and set aside.

Combine green olives, black olives, green onions, butter and mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.  Stir together until thoroughly  combined.

Spread mixture thickly and evenly onto french bread.

Bake on a foil lined baking sheet for 25 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and browning.

*Mixture can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to two days.

One Year Ago: Crockpot Beef Tips
Two Years Ago: Aloha and Mahalo

Theo also had enough of all the appliance shenanigans as well!!
He was not as impressed with my husband's appliance magic, 
he had other motives and just wanted to beg for the new cheese bread!