Trials and Errors in the Vegetarian World


Confessions of a Carnivore

Here’s the thing: I admire vegetarians and their healthy choices. But as much as I admire my friends who can shun meat, I like meat too much. Specifically, cheeseburgers. Little known fact: my cheeseburger obsession got to such a point one year that I needed to give them up for Lent in a desperate attempt to try to break my habit. (It didn’t work.)

And – I’m not going to lie – I’m a very happy carnivore. Like many of my friends who are also children of the 70s, I was raised on a meat-and-potato kind of diet. Roasts and casseroles were standards in our house – with good reason! They’re delicious; they feed large families; and, they’re great meals for SAHMs like me because the prep work is done in advance and they don’t require a lot of oversight while they cook. Plus, there’s something so-darn-comforting about these hearty, meaty meals.

But in my growing want/need to eat more healthfully, I’m on a kick to try to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our dinner rotation. And I have discovered I really love to grill..

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers and Portobello

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers & Portabello

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers & Portabello

There were a lot of different elements to this meal, so I thought I’d break it down here:

Grilled Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Talk about a trial: tofu is very new to my family. A few months ago, I thought I’d give it a try as part of our effort to have more vegetarian meals. So, I used it in a stir-fry and the family loved it. That dish has become a new staple in our house.

But tonight, since it was 90 degrees here, I thought it would be fun to try marinating and grilling the tofu.

In the trial category, I get an A.  In the error category, I think I’d get a B.

For the marinade, I mixed what I could find in my cabinet:

  •  some soy sauce
  • honey
  • minced garlic
  • black pepper
  • toasted sesame oil

I cut the tofu in half lengthwise and put the now 1/2 inch thick tofu into the marinade to sit for an hour.

I was off to a good start and then…. the tofu started breaking apart. And crumbling. So when I put it in the grill pan (which I pre-sprayed with grilling spray), it fell through the holes and burned while the bigger pieces didn’t get that crispy coat I was hoping for.

Marinating Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Tofu remnants on grill

Tofu remnants on grill


The Hubs and 2/3 of the kids liked the tofu and ate it.  I think it was the marinade flavors they liked, because they all liked the taste, but didn’t care for the texture. My friend who is a vegetarian tells me this can be fixed based on the type of tofu you use.  It’s all about the firmness and quality.  I, in all honesty, had bought the tofu that was on sale and is sold in a box. Food for thought.

Grilled Romaine Hearts with Caesar Vinaigrette

IMG_3478 - Version 2

This. Was. So. Good.  If you like caesar salad, you will love this.

I saw the look in my husband’s eyes when I told him I was grilling Romaine hearts. He was less-than-enthused.

But once he tried it, he was hooked and asked for me to make this again over the summer.

As for the kids – they loved it, too!!!

Here’s the recipe I followed — VERY easy.

Grilled Peppers and Portabello

IMG_3480 - Version 2


Toss sliced mini bell peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill.

Brush portabellos with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt. Grill.

Done. Dinner is ready-to-go and we didn’t have a clean plate in site (with the exception of some tofu my younger son just couldn’t bring himself to swallow.)

Then I woke up this morning 2lbs lighter!  Was it the healthier food?  I dunno… but it doesn’t hurt, does it?!  LOL!

Happy eatings!


Thigh “Highs” and a Dish Best Served Cold — or Not!

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs, Pea Salad, and Grilled Potatoes

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs, Pea Salad, Grilled Potatoes

I’ll admit it.  I’m a thigh girl.  I like my meat juicy and dark.

Get your minds out of the gutter!  I’m talkin’ chicken, people!!

And while some people prefer the trendier, seemingly healthier, more low-cal reputation of Chicken Thigh’s stepsister, Chicken Breasts — when it comes to thighs, what’s not to love?

They’re tender and moist. They’re awesome grilled. And — best of all — they’re cheap! When you have three growing children like mine who are ready to eat us out of house and home, that’s important!

A ‘value pack’ of thighs ran me about $5 this week.  That’s for the boneless, skinless kind — I’m too lazy to do that boning and skinning myself. That one package made two meals for our family. That’s why you saw grilled chicken thighs last night and are now about to see them again for tonight’s dinner. But tonight, I tried something new — I took them off the grill and warmed up the stove.

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs

It was pretty simple, really.

  1. Dip the thighs in flour.
  2. Dip them in egg whisked with a little milk.
  3. Dip them into Panko bread crumbs seasoned with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  4. (Now — here’s the twist) Pan-fry them in toasted sesame oil until they’re cooked-through and crispy.

I was a bit skeptical about this, but once I tasted them… they were pretty darn good. And the whole family thought so, too! The sesame oil made this dish really savory. The Hubs actually thought I had cooked them with bacon!

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs

I served these thighs with grilled potatoes and a cold Pea Salad. Annnnndddddd…. cue the awkward dinner moment.

These dishes are not Random Acts of Cooking in our house.  I’ve made them before.  In fact, I grill potatoes all of the time without much ado!  Tonight I used 6 red potatoes, stabbed them with a fork and microwaved them for about 6 minutes (just so they were soft.)  Then I diced them, tossed them with olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and parsley and grilled them.

Grilled Potatoes

Grilled Potatoes

Pea Salad

Pea Salad

The Pea Salad is a cold side dish and is perfect for summer.  I quick-thaw a bag of frozen peas under running cold water.  Then I toss them with olive oil, a little diced red onion, the juice of one small lemon, some parmesan cheese and a dash of salt and pepper. Voila! Done!

Plates were cleared — lickety-split. In fact, our 5yo dinnertime procrastinator hadn’t finished his meal by the time the rest of us were licking Oreo crumbs off of our fingers and, yet, he still insisted on finishing before enjoying his dessert!

So the kids loved it — all of the kids, that is, expect my ‘big kid.’

The Hubs hated these sides, leaving his peas and potatoes untouched on his plate.


Ah well… guess you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Tell you what: I’m not cooking tomorrow. Or the rest of this holiday weekend for that matter. It’s my silent protest to his not liking my dish.  🙂   Really…. it’s just a way of saying I need a break from the kitchen.

When you write a cooking blog, you tend to cook a lot. Mama needs a day or two off.

Hope your holiday weekend is filled with Happy Eatings!!


Conflicting Ingredients: When Likes and Dislikes Collide

To say my kids love olives may be the understatement of the year. So much so, that if we told our kids they’d need to leave their friends so we could start an olive farm in Italy, they might go ahead and pack my kitchen for me.

Do you know what else my kids love? Blue cheese! I know it’s a weird thing for three little kids to like, but my husband and I put blue cheese on our steaks and our kids want to be just like us. So they tried it, and — guess what? They like blue cheese!

They also love tomatoes, especially tomatoes that have been chopped and are tossed with olive oil. Or on bagels with lox. Or salsa. Or Gazpacho. (Yep. Gazpacho.)

But, spinach?  Nope. They don’t like spinach. At. All.

So check out this salad I threw together tonight, and sing along with me:  which one of these ingredients doesn’t belong????


Spinach Salad

  • 1/2 package fresh spinach, torn
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green olives, halved
  • handful of croutons
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Toss the ingredients together. Serve.  ((Does it get easier than that? I don’t think so.))

But — if you’re thinking what I was thinking as I made this salad — the kids don’t like spinach!!  I’m in for a battle!

WRONG!!!  So. Wrong. WOO-HOO!

The kids LOVED this salad! Even my recently-more-persnickity-6yo had a large second helping.

Why? I have no idea. Kids are an enigma, after all. But, if they like 5/6th of the ingredients, shouldn’t they like the salad as a whole?

Apparently so. Not a clean plate in our house.


Oh… and so you know… I served this with grilled chicken thighs that marinated for 35 minutes in a mixture of 1c. Greek yogurt, juice of 1/2 lime, juice of 1/2 lemon, a sprinkle of garlic salt and a sprinkle of oregano. They turned out just right. Very tender, tasty and not-too-salty. (the Hubs’ words, not mine.)


Marinating chicken in Greek yogurt and then grilling it may be a new favorite here. Glad I tried it!

Let me know what’s going on in your kitchen. I could use some good ideas on ways to push the taste bud limits!

Happy eatings!


Whole Lotta Cookin’ Goin’ On! Three Nights of Dinner…

There’s been a lot of cooking (and eating!) going on in our house.

Blogging? Not so much.

Life caught up with me this weekend, and I got a bit behind in my posts. So I wanted to bring you up-to-date on the meals I’ve made over the past couple of nights.


Pork Noodle Stir-Fry

Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on Cob, Grilled Mushrooms


Shrimp & Grits, Steamed Green Beans, Cucumber Salad

  • Tonight: Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on the Cob, Grilled Steak-cut Mushrooms
  • Last night: Shrimp and Grits, Cucumber Salad, Steamed Green Beans
  • Two Nights Ago: Pork & Noodle Stir-Fry (A Leftover Extravaganza)

Pork & Noodle Stir-Fry

Let’s start with two nights ago, when I was out with the kids all day and came home at 4pm with no dinner plan in mind. So I grabbed whatever was in my refrigerator, threw it in my Wok and came up with this concoction: Pork & Noodle Stir-Fry.


  • The main ingredient was simply the leftovers from when I made Grilled Pork Chops with a Honey Glaze two nights before. Thinly sliced.
  • Whatever veggies I had on hand: frozen sliced green, yellow & red peppers, a can of button mushrooms (drained), baby carrots, snow peas.
  • A jar of Kikoman Stir-Fry sauce
  • Angel Hair Pasta (cooked)
  • Toasted Sesame Oil

Here’s how I threw it together (literally)

  • heat up a little sesame oil in the wok
  • cook chopped carrots over high heat for 3-4 minutes — until cooked just a tad
  • toss in the snow peas and peppers
  • add in 1/2 jar of Kikoman Stir-Fry sauce
  • toss in the cooked Angel Hair Pasta and button mushrooms
  • STIR the entire time
  • It’s all done and ready to serve in about 10 minutes. (including veggie chopping time.)photo-42

Was it a hit? Yes and No. Earlier that day, my kids were at a taste-testing event for our public school system (more on that in a future post) and had eaten some foods that are not part of our usual repertoire. So, by the time our long & busy day was over, the kids were (I think) ready for some chicken nuggets or something more ‘kid-friendly.’ But they still liked this meal… particularly the noodles… and ate their dinners. My husband also really liked this. I’ve made Tofu Stir-Fry this way before with similar success, so I would serve it again.

((A word about the Kikoman Stir-Fry Sauce — I always have this on hand in my pantry because it’s a great way to help use up the veggies that are getting tired in the fridge. But it’s a bit on the salty side. So I water it down as I see fit.))

Shrimp & Grits, Cucumber Salad & Steamed Green Beans

Sifting through my kitchen to find the makings for the Pork Noodle Stir Fry inspired me to try to use up everything in my refrigerator and freezer. That’s when I found the fixin’s for this menu: shrimp in the freezer, grits and diced tomatoes in the pantry.

Trouble is: I’m trying to lose a few L-B’s and Shrimp & Grits isn’t always considered the most low-cal meal. That’s when I found Bobby Dean’s lightened-up version of his mom’s Shrimp and Grits recipe.

Bobby Dean's Lightened-up Shrimp & Grits

Bobby Dean’s Lightened-up Shrimp & Grits

It’s more tomato-based, less cheese. I used turkey bacon instead and omitted the hot sauce. My kids tend to love shrimp dishes, and this was well-received. Even my 6 year old who is less-than-enthusiastic about other recipes for Shrimp and Grits that I’ve tried, ate this with little grumbling.

The steamed green beans — well, that’s all they were.

The Cucumber Salad was the most-favored dish on this menu. My kids all LOVED this.

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

I based mine on this Ellie Krieger recipe. The biggest differences in mine: 1) I didn’t have any red onion, so that was left out, and, 2) I substituted dill for the fresh basil from my herb planter. Oh — and I used regular cucumbers, which I tend to always have on hand in my fridge. Saying my kids loved this is an understatement. If your kids like cucumbers – give it a try. It’s definitely a keeper in our house!

Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on the Cob and Grilled Mushrooms

Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on Cob, Grilled Mushrooms

Grilled Leg of Lamb, Corn on Cob, Grilled Mushrooms

That brings us to — last, but not least — tonight’s super-simple, super-yummy meal. All of the ingredients were on sale at the grocery store today, including the boneless, butterflied leg of lamb. So I just couldn’t resist. Leg of lamb is my absolute favorite meal. And grilling it makes it less messy than it is when you roast it. Not to mention it’s so much better to grill when it’s 82 degrees outside!

All I do for my lamb is:

Leg of Lamb on the Grill

Leg of Lamb on the Grill

  1. spray grill with cooking spray
  2. sprinkle lamb with garlic salt on one side, garlic powder on the other (I find this gives it the garlic and saltiness that I love, without either being too overpowering)
  3. put a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary on top, sort of tucking them into the crevasses of the lamb.
  4. grill on low heat until done.(about 45 min-1 hour)


The Hubs loves this.

The kiddos love this. My 6yo wanted the leftovers in his lunchbox for tomorrow. He’ll have to arm wrestle my hubby for them.

I love this.

So there you have it — three nights of dinner in one extra-long post.

Sorry for the delay, but you know how it goes. 🙂

Happy eatings!


Keep it simple…

Grilled Pork Chops with Honey Glaze and

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Citrus Vinaigrette


When I worked in TV news, there was a cardinal rule we would adhere to.  KISS:  Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The thought — that when you make your show complicated, bad things happen. Live shots crash. Complicated graphic effects freeze on air. Politicians can be identified as crooks accidentally.  It can get ugly.

So, tonight, as on so many nights, I made dinner and remembered the mantra: KISS.  And it was all thanks to my food processor!

Tonight’s meal was 20 minutes: prep to table.

The Main Course:  Grilled Pork Chops With Honey Glaze Recipe – – 127539 —photo-36

This was as simple as taking 3 minutes to make a glaze, brushing the glaze onto the pork chops and then grilling them. Very, VERY, easy!!!

The Side Dish:  Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette – Alaska from ScratchAlaska from Scratch.  Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Citrus Vinaigrette

The trick to this is using the food processor to shred the brussels sprouts. This was all finished in about 5 minutes!  photo-34

I made a couple of changes to this recipe.. including adding turkey bacon instead of regular bacon.  I also added shredded carrots to the mix.  I also served it with the leftover Yellow Jasmine Rice we had last night.

I was a little skeptical of what would come of this meal, but my family really liked it — especially the brussels sprout slaw.  The Hubs says he prefers when I pan-fry the brussels sprouts, but that he likes these as a way of switching it up.

So, this one is being added into the summer grilling rotation. Because what’s summer without simplicity?

Happy eatings!


Color Our World: How the ‘rainbow connection’ helps our mealtime

Quick Tandoori Chicken, Fried Kale, and Yellow Jasmine Rice

I think I may be on to something.

It seems my kids, like me, are visual beings. They tend to like colorful meals. I think this may be why they like sushi so much. When they were really little and learning their colors, I did a one-on-one ‘Special Day with Mommy’ with each of them and took them out for a sushi lunch. We sat at the sushi bar, talked about the different colors we saw, discussed different types of fish and seaweed, and then tried anything my child would pick out.

We’ve done the same thing at the grocery store and at farmer’s markets — walking through the aisles and talking about the colors and shapes of the fruits and vegetables we saw. Sometimes we stop to smell the ripe peaches, knock on a butternut squash, feel the texture of avocados, and count the leaves of artichokes. And then I’ll let them pick a new veggie or fruit to buy and they will help me prepare it at home. In fact, our family’s newfound love of brussels sprouts started this way. The kids saw them at the store, asked me what they were, and we decided to try them. I had never eaten a brussels sprout before and didn’t know how to make them. But we found it was fun to try them together, as a family.

It’s all about our senses. So I tapped into that with tonight’s dinner — Quick Tandoori Chicken, Fried Kale, and Yellow Jasmine Rice.

Quick Tandoori Chicken Thighs, Yellow Jasmine Rice, Fried Kale

The meal is pretty — bright yellow in the rice, rich green in the kale, and the beautiful marks of the grill lining the chicken. And it was DELICIOUS!

Best of all, it was simple!  Honestly!  I know it doesn’t look like it…but this was stovetop to tabletop in 30-minutes!!ust enough time for my 1st grader to get some homework done, my 5yo to practice some reading, and my 3yo to work on some puzzles while I stirred and sauteed.

And even better than that — my kids LOVED this meal! They cleaned their plates and asked for seconds!  My 1st grader is working on using ‘descriptive’ words in his writing assignments at school, so I asked him to use descriptive words to help describe the meal for my blog.  “Yummy.” “Scrumptious.”  “Delicious.” “Colorful.” Those are the words my kids used. (they all got into that game!)

But there’s one things I’d suggest: watch the salt. The Hubs and I felt this meal was a bit high on the sodium levels – but this was my fault. It’s a chronic problem I have since I measure my ingredients with my eyes instead of actual measuring cups and spoons. You’d think I’d learn, but I’m stubborn. Just ask my husband.

I digress.

Here are links to all of the recipes. (the pictures are from here in my kitchen)


Yellow Jasmine Rice



I was really proud of the kids for trying this meal.  It was some brand new flavors for us — and it was definitely out of our comfort zone with the heavy Indian influences.

As a reward for being such willing guinea pigs, it was Lindor chocolates all-around for dessert!

Happy eatings, everyone!

So… what to make tomorrow…?


A Confession, A Simple Dinner and A Play Date

Make-Your-Own Chicken Soft Tacos

I have a confession: this weekend was Mother’s Day and I phoned it in. Literally.

Sushi one night. Pizza the next. Hot dogs at the baseball game. A steak dinner made by the Hubs. Some good eatin’! So it’s time to get healthy(ish)!

A friend of mine emailed me last week, and told me my posts have made her feel badly because they looked fancy compared to her more simple meals. Truth is: everything about dinner in our house is about being simple. And, as is probably the case in your house, we have our regularly-scheduled share of chicken nuggets, and hot dogs, and grilled cheese, etc.

Also — I’m a TERRIBLE cook. I screw meals up all of the time. But I like to try. And trying new meals has become a bit of a hobby for me. But I’m no gourmet. When I make something that looks a little more complicated, trust me — it isn’t! It’s all about meals that come together easily and cook with little oversight.

Tonight’s dinner is a perfect example.

My 6yo had a friend over for a play date and dinner tonight. So I made a favorite for my kids: Make-your-own Chicken Soft Tacos. Turns out, our friend liked them, too. He had two helpings! They’re really tasty, and there’s something the kids really love about having a hand in how their own dinner comes together. (Forgive me for not having more pictures, but I had an extra mouth I was feeding during tonight’s meal.) LOL!


The recipe? It’s one I found in a People Magazine — adapted from Sheryl Crow’s book ‘If It Makes You Healthy.‘ Here you go — it can’t be more simple than this. Poach the chicken while you hang out with your kids.


(Serves 4)

  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • 1½ cups mild salsa
  • 2 (8-oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I used boneless, skinless thighs since they were on sale)
  • 8 taco shells or whole-wheat tortillas Image
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (I used fresh salsa)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or provolone cheese (I used a Nacho Taco Blend)
  • 4 tbsp. sour cream (I opted for avocado in place of the sour cream)

(Crow recommends using all organic ingredients if possible)

  1. In a large saucepan, bring stock and salsa to a simmer over medium heat. Add the chicken and simmer covered, until tender, about 1½ hours. Remove from pan and cool. Reserve cooking liquid.
  2. Shred chicken and put it in a bowl. Drizzle with enough of the cooking liquid to keep the chicken moist.
  3. Fill taco shells or tortillas with chicken and top with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and sour cream.

Muy bueno! The kids love these! And — honestly — they’re so simple.

((BONUS MEAL ALERT: Use the leftover shredded chicken to make another meal. I like to use it to make chicken salad. If you make these simultaneously, you can get two meals in the time it takes to make one. Yummmmmmm.))

Go ahead and give these a try! I’d love to hear what you guys think!

Happy eatings!


Tried and True

Corned Beef, Potatoes & Cabbage

“MOMMY!!! I think you should make this EVERY night!!!”

That’s what my 5yo said to me during tonight’s dinner: Corned Beef, Boiled Potatoes and butter-sauteed Cabbage.


This isn’t a new meal for us in our house. In fact, it’s a long-standing favorite. My kids love how it tastes. I love how EASY it is — especially since I make most of it in my beloved crock pot!

It doesn’t get easier than this:photo-21

  1. cut open the package of corned beef and put the meat in the crock potphoto-22
  2. cover with water
  3. if there’s a seasoning packet, add the contents to the water (mine did not have this tonight.)
  4. turn on crock pot (I set mine for 6hrs.)
  5. 2.5 hours before serving, put quartered potatoes into the water.
  6. on the stove, saute thinly-shredded cabbage in melted butter (I sprinkle ours with kosher salt and celery seed.)
  7. serve

This meal vanishes from my kids’ plates!  While it’s not exactly an ‘experimental’ recipe for my family, I thought I’d mention it as a possible one to try if you’re feeling adventurous. And, thanks to the crock pot, it’s perfect for a busy weeknight meal.


I’m having fun writing this blog… I hope you’re having fun reading it.  🙂

Happy eatings!


Snack Time: Kale Chips

It was another rainy day here, and two of my three little birds were home with me. So we hung out doing the things we love to do on rainy days: making arts and crafts, reading, and cooking together.

My kids LOVE to help me in the kitchen. We turn on some tunes, break out our ingredients, and get messy. In our family, I think it’s the fun times we spend making food together that fosters a willingness in my children to try different foods. Today’s a good example of that.

You may have noticed from some of my other posts– I’m all about meals-made-easy and it doesn’t get easier than this quick, yummy snack:  kale chips.


I know from previous attempts at making kale chips that my 5yo LOVES them; but my 6yo would not, could not eat them with a goat. So, it was a good thing my older boy was at school and couldn’t influence his younger sister. This was, I believe, her first try.

These were so delicious!  I put some pre-washed, pre-cut Kale into a bow, had the kids put 3 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle some salt on it, and then they helped me spread it onto a baking sheet. (told you I like to keep it simple!)


350 degrees for 15 minutes and we’re snacking.

photo-19The kids LOVED it! Each had two helpings! And even my 6yo came home from school and gave them another try with less grumbling than in previous attempts. I consider that success.  🙂

Happy eatings!

Go With What You Got!



Yesterday… a busy day of little league and gardening with no chance to hit the grocery store means a evening raid of the pantry and refrigerator.  And such a raid found a ton of veggies that needed to be used — stat.

The result: a SIMPLE, QUICK, and YUMMY pasta salad that was such a hit that the kids even asked for the leftovers to be put in their lunch boxes this morning!

And here’s the best part — as long as you have some pasta and a little Italian salad dressing, you can make this with anything you have hanging out in your house.  Here’s what I used:

  • penne
  • light Italian salad dressing
  • cannellini beans
  • celery
  • heirloom tomatoes
  • mini sweet peppers
  • carrots
  • black olives
  • shredded parmesan cheese

I boiled, drained and rinsed the pasta, chopped the veggies and olives, and tossed it all together with a little dressing (maybe a 1/4 cup.)  Total time: 20 minutes.


The cannellini beans make this pasta salad more hearty — and transform it from a side dish to a main dish. While I was chopping and dicing, I wished I had a cucumber and some red onion.  They would have added a new twist — but, oh well!  You go with what you got!  And the family loved it!

The added bonus — I didn’t have to make lunches this morning.  Just filled the kids’ thermoses with leftovers!


Now that’s happy eating!!