Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The 15 Minute Dinner...Seriously!

Happy New Year, friends! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season!  We spent our second Christmas here in Hawaii, which was much smaller and quieter than usual, but a special time for just the three of us.

I have to admit, I get a little bummed out during the inevitable lull after New Year's.  Everyone goes back to work and schedules return to normal, and there isn't a whole lot going on for a while.  And of course we all start hitting those New Year's resolutions hard for about 30 minutes, so if you're still going after yours, (and if they involve"spend less, save more," "eat healthier," and "have more quality family time") then I'm going to help you out here.  You can thank me later... I accept payment in the form of good wine and chocolate anything.

Here's a meal I made this week that I wanted to share because it was super quick, fresh and very tasty.  The original recipe was for mahi (or ono), which is really easy to buy fresh here on the island.  However, I always have frozen tilapia fillets in the freezer so I just used those and they worked well.  Basically, a flaky white fish will work fine, with the advantage being toward a thicker, firmer fillet.

To sum it up, you put the fish in to broil in the oven, make the sauce while the fish is cooking (this will cut time off the original recipe), throw some french bread in bottom rack of the oven to toast up, and put a steamer bag of veggies in the microwave all at the same time.  Trust me, it's simple and dinner will be ready in 15.  You know I'm a stickler for family dinners, so this is a perfect way to make a nutritious meal to enjoy together, and it won't take up a lot of your time in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

Broiled Mahi-Mahi with Parsleyed Tomatoes (adapted SL, 2005)

  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 6 (6- to 8-ounce) mahi-mahi fillets (Or other white fish) 
  • 1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
  1. Place fish in a single layer on a lightly greased rack in an aluminum foil-lined broiler pan; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  2. Broil 5 inches from heat 8-10 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.
  3. Sauté sliced onions in hot olive oil over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until tender. Add chopped tomatoes, next 4 ingredients, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes until heated through.
  4. Spoon onion-and-tomato mixture evenly onto a platter; top with fish fillets. Sprinkle evenly with crumbled feta cheese, and garnish, if desired.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peach-Mustard Glazed Pork Chops

I've been inspired to try some new recipes this month (you know, being festive and all) and I came across this recipe which was originally published for pork tenderloin.  I thought Justin bought tenderloin at the store, but I pulled it out of the freezer and found pork chops, so I made the recipe exactly the same way as it called for tenderloin and it worked out really well.  As you know by now, I like to post recipes on here that I've "vetted" based on three criteria:  Easy to make (and easy-to-find ingredients), delicious + healthy, and presents well.  This is a dish that would be great to make on Christmas Eve or New Year's if you're looking to make an impressive spread with little effort.

A note about the ingredients.  I didn't have bourbon on hand so I subbed whisky.  Also, I didn't need the chicken broth at the pork chops were saucey enough in the dish when they came out.  But I left that instruction in in case you need it.  Enjoy!

Peach-Mustard Glazed Pork Chops (Adapted, Southern Living)


  • 3-4 pork chops
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup peach preserves
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons country-style Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth


  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and black pepper. Cook in hot oil in a large ovenproof skillet over high heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
  2. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat; add shallot, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes until tender. Remove from heat, and stir in peach preserves and next 3 ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, 1 minute or until preserves are melted. Pour over chops.
  3. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 150°. Transfer to a cutting board, reserving drippings in skillet. Cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let stand 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, stir broth into reserved drippings, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Serve with pork chops.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Season for Traditions

As they say, it's the most wonderful time of the year!  I think many of us would agree, some of the best rituals during the holiday season are the parties and the food!  We Southerners love a good reason to eat, drink, and be merry, and a good tacky sweater party never hurts either. 

So along with this revelry comes the recipe swapping, and pulling out those old family recipes.  My recipe folder holds many gems I've gotten from friends, and I have to say, it warms a girl's heart to know that her recipes are loved by others and used to spread comfort and joy outside her circle.  In fact, today I happily sent a quick text to a friend of mine to let her know I was making one of her recipes for Christmas gifts.  Building our own collection of "tried and trues" is a treasure in Southern homes, and quite possibly, one of those items I would take with me if I had to leave the house with only a few items.  Especially being far from home, I love opening my recipe folder and finding my girlfriend's recipe for apple crisp in her handwriting, or my grandmother's recipe for chicken casserole.

I am blessed to come from a family of excellent cooks, and years ago, my great-uncle published a family cookbook based on favorite recipes we all submitted.  All the infamous family favorites are in there, and it has become a wonderful keepsake particularly now that some of these family members are no longer with us.  We can still have a taste of home, years and miles later.

I am also lucky (yes, lucky!) to have two mothers-in-law... my husband's mother and his step-mother.  Both Southern girls, they know how to be fantastic hostesses.  I asked Justin's mother once how she always seems to have a delicious spread readily available for guests, and she told me that it was a skill she learned growing up, when her father was a Congressman.  In the political circle, you just never knew who would drop by the house, so one must always be prepared.  It's something I'm working on, not that I have high-profile guests, but I do have dearly loved friends and I always want to have some homemade happiness on hand for them... nothing says "welcome" more than that!

So, my goal is to share some recipes with you over the next week that are perfect for holiday entertaining and that you can keep on hand for "just in case."  Below is the gifty recipe I made today that I got from my friend several years ago after a party at her home.  Nothing complicated, just a quick snack item that also goes great on salads.  Today I made this Spicy Glazed Pecans recipe with mixed nuts, so feel free to use your favorite variety.  Place in a vellum bag and tie with a festive ribbon for a delicious gifted snack.  Enjoy!

Spicy-Glazed Pecans
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  1. Pour 1/4 cup sugar into warm water to dissolve.  Add pecans to sugar water and let set for 10 mins.  Drain.
  2. Put remaining sugar and chili powder in a Ziploc bag and toss to coat.
  3. Place pecans on foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 mins at 350.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Friends, it's been way too long since I've posted anything.  Shame!  So, I figured I should at least put something out there for Turkey Day tomorrow.  If there's anything Southerners know how to do well, it's cooking a mess of delicious food to enjoy with family and friends, in celebration of our country's beloved gluttonous holiday.

I came across a yummy sweet potato recipe recently and made it as a side dish for dinner one night.  I had a bit of leftovers, so decided to use it to make my own on-the-fly version of a sweet potato casserole.  (Back story:  Aubrey's Thanksgiving party at preschool is today, and the parents are bringing dishes to share.  I needed something gluten-free and kid-friendly, and had to whip it up in a pinch because he originally wasn't going to school today since my parents are in town.  But plans changed, and I was super thankful that he could still go and party with his buddies!)  So, I got to cooking at 7 am, but this was pretty easy.

I used my leftover Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes (recipe below), layered them with some slices of baked apple (recipe following the first) and topped it all off with a light layer of marshmallows, and baked it up in the oven until everything was gooey and melty.  YUM!  I highly recommend trying out the sweet potatoes, and perhaps you'll  find Thanksgiving inspiration in the casserole.  Gobble gobble!

Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes (Southern Living)

  • 6 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Peel potatoes, cut into 1 inch thick slices; arrange in a single layer in 2 lightly greased 13x9 inch baking dishes.
  2. Stir together brown sugar and next 5 ingredients; pour over potatoes.  Cover with aluminum foil.
  3. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until fork-tender.  Uncover and bake 5 more minutes or until glaze becomes syrupy.
If making this casserole, apples can cook at the same time as the potatoes.  Peel and thinly slice 4 gala apples, and place them in a baking dish.  Drop in two pats of butter, a sprinkling of brown sugar and cinnamon, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender.  Stir once halfway through.

Once sweet potatoes and apples are cooked, layer the apples over the sweet potatoes and top with marshmallows.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until melted. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weekend Breakfast: Strawberry Oven-Puff Pancake

Speaking of strawberries, this recipe is a favorite of mine this time of year, when they are in peak season.  This makes the perfect weekend breakfast, served along with some hot, crispy bacon.  Heaven!  The "pancake" is similar in texture to a popover, but the dish itself is surprisingly filling.  I originally found the recipe on the "Rita's Recipes" blog, and I have adapted it.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Oven-Puff Pancake

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • powdered sugar, sifted
  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Melt butter in a 9 inch pottery pie plate in the oven while it preheats, until butter is melted and bubbly.
  2. Whisk together eggs through vanilla.
  3. Remove pan from oven and add the batter.  Do not stir.
  4. Return to oven and bake about 18-20 minutes, until puffed high and golden.
  5. When pancake is done, remove from oven and fill the center with the strawberries.  Generously sift powdered sugar over top.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Soul Food: BBQ Chicken and Easy Peach Cobbler

A funny thing happens when you live on a tropical island, where there are no seasons to speak of and it is perpetually 83 degrees and sunny.  I've found that there is no way to guage time here, and the holidays and events that happen throughout the year, which you just instictively do back home based on Mother Nature's mood swings. 

For me, living in the Southeast for the last 30 years meant these things...the heat of the summer and that signature thick, humid haze signals fresh veggies from the garden, gorgeous blooms from the yard, barbecues and days spent by the pool.  When the weather cools in the fall, you get excited to wear sweaters and boots again, to pick apples and pumpkins, and to sit in the backyard at night by the firepit with friends and a  good glass of wine.  The winter (or any time the temperature falls below 60 degrees in South Carolina) is a time to hibernate inside in front of the fireplace, and at least buy a cute coat for the times you do venture out.

So checking my calendar I realize that it is almost the end of June and the July 4th holiday is approaching.  And something in me craves food from the grill and fruit pies.  So last night I cooked in a way that made our insides happy, but not without a touch of nostalgia for my grandmother, who was the ultimate Southern home cook.  My memories of her always include a hot, steamy summer kitchen, fresh butter beans, chicken and dumplings, cobblers, and foods she had canned herself.  So during this time when I've been missing home, I think of her and want to cook like her, and miss her dearly.

The barbecue chicken is my own recipe that I just throw together and cook in the crock pot, so here it is, and please excuse the lack of technicality.  As I've said before, slow cooker recipes for me are loosey goosey, and they always turn out just fine.  But don't miss the peach cobbler recipe below.  This one tastes like childhood to me, and was so good my husband said it was worthy of a "food-gasm."  So umm, try to control yourself.  Happy summer and happy cooking!

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • dash of Worcestershire
  • dash of hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp.  Montreal steak seasoning
  • 2 slices uncooked bacon
  1. Combine ketchup through seasoning, in a large bowl, and to taste.
  2. Spoon some of sauce into slow cooker, enough to coat the bottom.
  3. Place chicken breasts in the slow cooker, top each breast with 1/2 slice bacon, and pour remaining sauce over top to cover.
  4. Cook 4 hours on high.

Easy Peach Cobbler (adapted, Southern Living)


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups fresh peach slices
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

  • Preparation

    1. Melt butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish
    2. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter (do not stir).
    3. Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, lemon juice, and vanilla to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
    4. Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool.

    * Note:  I halved this recipe and used unsweetened, vanilla flavored almond milk instead of regular milk.  You do not need dairy milk for this if you are lactose-free.

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Strawberry Glaze Pie

    Aloha friends!  We just got back from our whirlwind 10-day trip to the mainland, and had a blast with our families in Virginia and South Carolina.  It really made me miss home, especially this time of year when we would be boating, enjoying some fresh local peaches, strawberries and tomatoes, gardening in our backyard, and all the other fun festivities of summer in the South. 

    My parents are both great cooks, and really spoiled us with all the comfort dishes we love.  Ribs, cornbread, fried chicken, slaw, and strawberry EVERYTHING  (Forest Gump moment here... strawberry cake, strawberry pie, strawberry ice cream!)  And speaking of strawberry pie, my mom's recipe has been one of my all-time favorites ever since I was a little girl, and now it's a summer tradition that I make it too at the peak of strawberry season.  (And Aubrey loves it, with homemade whipped cream!)

    A dear friend requested the recipe for the pie this week, so this one is for Katie B., who I miss so much!  We were so blessed to see her and her two sweet babies during our layover in DFW, for breakfast and catching up after nearly a year since her family's move to Texas.  Needless to say, we are both missing our former lives in South Carolina, but embracing the change that God had planned for us.

    (And also shout-outs to my Greenville friends who we got to spend time with, and my long-time friend Kimberly who surprised me all the way from NYC for my 30th birthday!)

    This pie couldn't be easier to make, and it is full of flavor and deliciousness.  And since I love y'all so much too, here is my mom's recipe for Strawberry Glaze Pie, which will be made every summer in my house for years to come.  Ahh, the sweet taste of childhood!

    Strawberry Glaze Pie


    1 c. water
    1c. sugar
    1 qt strawberries, cut into halves or quarters, to preference
    3 tbsp. cornstarch

    1. Pre- bake pie crust according to directions. Set aside. 
    2. In a pot, mix cornstarch with sugar. Add water and 1 cup of the sliced berries and cook until clear (may be pink, depending on berries.). Let cool.
    3. Fill bottom of cooled pie crust with remaining berries. Pour glaze mixture over the berries. Chill before serving.