Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: Review and Reflection

As 2015 comes to a close, it's time to reflect back on the past twelve months. Back in the summer, Joyously Domestic began its fourth year. It is so much fun and such a blessing that my "work" is doing something that I absolutely love. I'm continually amazed everyday that my job is sharing my love of food with all of you.
Professionally, I celebrated some milestones over the course of the past year. Back in October, I hit one million page views just in a one-month period (a new record for JD). During 2015, a few of my recipes/photos were featured/shared on several major sites, such as Delish, BuzzFeed, MSN, Today Food and The Food Network. And, my overall stats for the blog improved greatly - way beyond my expectations and hopes for the year.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ultimate Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I make many variations of potato soup. Like, probably more than ten. It is the one type of soup that every single family member in the Joyously Domestic household absolutely loves. Throughout the fall, winter and spring, I make potato soup on an average of once a week. Sometimes I keep it very simple and basic. And, then there is this recipe.

Okay. Maybe I should clarify so as to not scare you away from trying the recipe. I'm not saying that this is a difficult, complicated or overly-involved recipe. It's just a little more complex in flavor and has more ingredients in comparison to my "typical, everyday" recipe.

Basically, this version is just slightly more over-the-top. In many fabulous, fabulous ways.

It is thick, luxurious and decadent ... the perfect marriage of everything we all love about potato soup combined with the flavors of a loaded baked potato.

Serves 6.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Black Forest Mini Trifles with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

Black Forest Cake is one of my favorite desserts. My grandmother made it for birthdays and special occasions during my childhood. One of things that I loved about it was that it was served cold straight out of the fridge and that it had been made well in advance so that everything could meld together. I know that she made her version completely from scratch, but I've put together this recipe with a little help from store-bought items. You could, of course, make a chocolate cake using your own favorite recipe and/or prepare homemade whipped cream. But, I've found that this is a great avenue to take when I'm wanting to save on time, but still "wow" my guests with a decadent dessert.

What I do recommend is that this be made in advance. I have found that making and assembling the trifles a day before service is ideal. Also, I brush my cooled cake with an amaretto simple syrup, but you could opt to make a simple syrup without the liqueur. It would simply be made with equal parts water and sugar.

Note, also, that this recipe could be made into one large trifle instead of twelve mini trifles, if desired.

Yields twelve servings.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Moravian Ginger Spice Cookie Thins

It took me quite a bit of experimenting to get this particular recipe how I wanted. Lots of trial and error. I knew the texture and flavor for which I was aiming. I tweaked and tweaked with each new batch until I came up with what I consider "The Ultimate Ginger Cookie" recipe. I think you'll like this one and I urge you to try it for yourself. It has become my favorite holiday cookie.

Thin and crisp, these cookies are more complex in flavor than traditional, run-of-the-mill ginger snaps. Each spice is all at once undeniably and robustly distinct, yet harmoniously in sync with the other. The cookies are addicting in every sense of the word. Last year, I hid away the last couple of dozen for myself and I may have led the kids to think that there were simply no more left. (Shhhh! That'll probably happen again this year, too.)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Chicken and Lighter-Than-Air Drop Dumplings

It's that time of the year when much of the country is wet, cold and dreary. We often look to the comfort foods of our childhood on these chilly days. For me, one special dish during winter that I crave is chicken and dumplings. And, even though I do make a few different versions, I always seem to revert back to the classic recipe that I grew up with when I crave the "real deal."

Made on the stove in a big pot.

Hoards of shredded, tender chicken.

Luxurious, but simple "gravy" made with homemade chicken stock.

And, from-scratch dumplings that almost melt in my mouth.

Those are the components of on-point chicken and dumplings in my book. A labor of love. Childhood comfort food at its finest. The ideal weekend dinner on a brisk winter's day. Served with buttery mashed potatoes ... best comfort food ever.

Serves 4 - 6.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Rice Noodle Salad Bowls

The turkey roaster pans, electric carving knives and gravy boats are making their return to the back of our cupboards. Visions of sugar cookies and Christmas ham are stirring in our heads. Stop offs for peppermint mocha coffees and caramel brulée lattes are almost inevitable as we bolt from store to store seeking out the perfect gifts for our loved ones. And, homemade baked goods from neighbors are sure to grace our counters during the coming weeks.
Frankly, most of us could stand to eat a few more salads this time of year. Indulgence is pretty much a given during the handful of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Having a few go-to salad recipes in our back pocket is never a bad idea - especially when we want/need to take a break from heavy, carb-laden dishes and treats that are the "norm" for most of us during this festive season of the year.
These Rice Noodle Salad Bowls are light, refreshing and chocked full of so many crisp, vibrant ingredients. I make a quick dressing with some basic pantry staples, fresh garlic and scallions. The salad holds up well for a couple of days in the fridge, so it's something nice to make up and have on hand for lunch during busy days, too.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Vegetable Lo Mein

Fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil come together beautifully in this dish to coat perfectly-cooked noodles and quickly-sautéed vegetables. A sprinkling of black sesame seeds as a garnish brings a nice textural element to finish off the dish. And, while the chopping of the vegetables does require a short bit of time (maybe five-to-ten minutes), everything comes together rather quickly once cooking begins.

One of the things that I love about this particular dish is that it can be eaten hot, at room temperature or cold. This would be a great side dish to serve with my Sweet and Sour Sesame Chicken.

In my opinion, the easiest way to go about this recipe is to prep everything before you start cooking. Get all of your veggies washed and cut. Have your noodles cooked and rinsed in a bit of cool water. I even combine the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl before beginning so that I can dump everything in the pan quickly as I go along. Then, all that you need to do is get your wok or pan hot and get to cooking.

Serves 2- 4 (depending on if you're serving it as a main dish or a side dish)

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Spiced Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Butter

During the cooler weather months, we eat a good deal of baked sweet potatoes and roasted squash in our house. This Spiced Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Butter is one of our favorite toppings for both. It is so quick to throw together and uses ingredients that we all tend to keep on hand.

French toast, waffles and pancakes are, also, great canvases for this easy-to-prepare spread.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Fall-Inspired Harvest Salad Bowl

We tend to think of salads as summer fare. But, when the right combination of ingredients come together, salads can be hearty, comforting dishes that fit right in during the cooler months, too.

Perfectly roasted squash shines in this salad. And, I've brought together a blend of bulgur and red quinoa for a great textural element here. Crisp apple slices and several other amazing add-ins make this one over-the-top salad. Of course, some sliced, grilled chicken would be fabulous in this salad if you're so inclined.

Serves 4.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween White Chocolate Party Pretzel Rods

Whether you're throwing a Halloween party at home ... or you're needing to make goodies for a Halloween social function this year at work or school, these white chocolate-dipped pretzels are sure to please. No tricks here! This is a Halloween party treat that couldn't be simpler to prepare.

With just a few items from the grocery store, you can bring your guests that perfect combination of sweet and salty that they crave. This is a great DIY party favor that even the kiddos can help make. Serve these to your guests at home. Or, take them along to work to share with co-workers.

Of course, the kiddos in your child's classroom would go batty for these fun and festive treats, too.

NOTE: I prefer Wilton White Candy Melts and Wilton Candy Eyeballs for this recipe.

Yields 30 Pretzel Rods.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Honey Balsamic Roasted Carrots

I was able to utilize freshly harvested carrots from our garden recently for this recipe. (Granted, they were chubby, stubby guys, but still amazing and sweet.) Within minutes of plucking them out of the ground, these orange beauties were roasting in my oven. Roasting carrots brings out the natural sweetness and depth of flavor. They make such a fantastic side dish ... one that pairs well with so many main dishes this time of year. This dish shines at holiday dinners, yet its easy and quick prep make it ideal for casual weeknight dinners, too.

The cast of supporting characters here are ingredients that I always have on hand in my kitchen. So, while the result is complex and ultra-flavorful in taste, this recipe really couldn't be much more simple and humble.

I do recommend using the best balsamic vinegar that you can afford. I adore the tang of balsamic vinegar and love how it plays with the sweetness of the honey in this recipe. As I mentioned, such a simple ingredient list ... but the end result is complex, deep and satisfying on so many levels.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Simple Oven-Roasted Salmon

My children are salmon fanatics. I don't often prepare it at home, however, because it is difficult in our area to get good-quality, fresh salmon. We usually have to drive over an hour to visit a store that sells salmon worth buying. So, when I do buy it, they thoroughly enjoy it. I prefer to oven-roast it. This recipe is so incredibly simple and comes out perfectly every single time.

There really are only a handful of simple ingredients needed to prepare this. Of course, you can embellish this recipe a bit by using any spices or herbs of your choosing. It's really the method that's worth taking note of here. I keep things simple by utilizing only butter, salt, pepper and a fresh garnish. Your dinner guests will go nuts for this. Leftovers are fabulous atop a salad the next day, too.

Serves 4.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Preserving Herbs in Frozen Olive Oil Cubes {Two Versions}

Perhaps you have some fresh herbs leftover after buying a large amount for a particular recipe. Or, perhaps you find yourself with an over-abundance of fresh herbs in your garden at summer's end. My post will show you a creative and super useful method to preserve those fresh herbs for future use.

In addition to a garden full of vegetables, we planted lots of fresh herbs earlier this past spring. I had been looking for a way to preserve my bounty of herbs without just simply drying them all as I have done in the past.

Since my family enjoys roasting whole chickens and other meats throughout the cooler months, we can now easily grab a few of these cubes as needed. The olive oil keeps things nice and moist during cooking while the herbs (and other add-ins) bring amazing flavor to each dish. I have found that tossing a couple of these cubes onto a tray a vegetables for roasting is awesome, as well.

And, we've used some in a few pasta dishes, too. (My sixteen-year old recently added a couple of the "Italian" cubes into a pot of plain, cooked spaghetti noodles and tossed it all together with some freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.)

Below you will find the ingredients and method that I used to make two different versions of these cubes. There really aren't exact measurements, however. The size of the wells in your ice cube tray(s)and the number of wells in each tray will determine how much of each ingredient you will use, for example. So, this is really just a guideline. Also, you can use more garlic, for example, if you love, love, love a strong garlic flavor.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Slow Cooker Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

Guys, this soup is so amazing. It is one that I will make over and over throughout the colder months because it is just so hearty, comforting and scrumptious. And, it's ultra easy to make.

I actually developed and spent time testing this recipe back in July and August. I often prepare recipes out-of-season/pre-season so that the posts for those recipes are "live" on the blog in-season. Since I prefer to test a new recipe several times before posting it, I often find myself making Christmas treats, for example, in October and November. In this case, it was soup in August.

Hot, sweltering August.

I am looking forward to enjoying this soup a lot more, however, now that cooler weather is upon us.

It's a soup deeply rich in flavor, but requires mere minutes of hands-on preparation.

The wild rice's chewy, hearty texture is enhanced here by the luxurious, creamy and silky broth while the mushrooms bring an earthy, deep flavor to the soup. Imagine cozying up on the couch with a mug of this hot, creamy soup during the blizzard-y, bitter cold months of winter. Pure comfort.

NOTE: You can use a variety of mushrooms or one type that you particularly like. I use basic button mushrooms.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Corn and Tomato Pasta Salad

For me, summertime fare means fresh, happenin' side dishes. Sure, barbecue chicken and burgers on the grill are fabulous. But, I really look forward to the sides when it comes to summer cookouts and gatherings. Potato salad. Crisp, sliced cucumbers paired with fresh dill and doused with vinegar. Buttery corn on the cob. Fresh fruit salad. A good guacamole. A crudité platter with creamy dip. And, pasta salad. Glorious, scrumptious pasta salad.

I make so many versions of pasta salad throughout the summer months. This one is a great recipe for showcasing fresh corn and garden tomatoes this time of year.

The vinaigrette-style dressing used in this recipe is light and simple. It really allows the fresh vegetables to shine and it doesn't compete with the other ingredients. (NOTE: A high-quality, store-bought Italian-style dressing can be used in place of the oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar dressing if you desire a more-robust, no fuss dressing.)

What's great about this salad is that it gets better with time. So, it's the perfect make-ahead side dish for your summer gatherings and parties. Gather up some just-picked vegetables, grab a box of mini pasta shells, break out that bottle of balsamic vinegar and make this before the summer is over!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Baked Steel Cut Oatmeal with Peaches

I adore recipes that allow me to assemble the ingredients well in advance so that there is little work at meal-time. This baked oatmeal is one of those fabulous recipes. A hearty, healthful breakfast is just a few simple steps away. Assemble the oatmeal at night prior to heading to bed. Toss some fresh fruit into the mix in the morning. Pop the dish into the oven. Brew up some coffee. And, grab some spoons!

Using steel cut oats is key here (they are easily found in the cereal/oats section of most supermarkets these days). They hold up well in the fridge overnight amidst the creamy, perfectly-spiced liquid and have such an awesome texture once baked up in this sensational breakfast dish.

Fresh peaches are used here, but this baked oatmeal works great with any fruit that I've tried (blueberries are another favorite add-in for us in this recipe). And, frankly, I think this recipe would work even if you didn't add any fruit into the mixture.

I bring together a little shredded coconut, chopped nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and maple syrup to really enhance the oats. I, also, mix a little quinoa in with the steel cut oats, but it can be omitted if you're not a fan or don't have it on hand. (Just replace the quinoa with additional oats.)

To serve, scoop some of the baked oatmeal into a bowl, top with a sprinkling of brown sugar (or a drizzle of honey) and pour on a little milk or cream right before digging in.

Serves 4 - 6.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Coconut and Quinoa Granola

Making granola at home is so easy and allows for you to control the ingredients. I've made lots of versions of granola through the years, but this recipe has really caught on in our house as the top contender to nab the title of "Best Homemade Granola Ever."
I just recently started adding quinoa to my granola. Doing so results in unexpected, yet fun little pops of texture and crunch. And, I like that the quinoa doesn't even have to be cooked prior to assembling the granola.

Granola is one of those recipes that can be adapted easily according to what is on hand and taste preferences. If you like pecans instead of sunflower seeds, go for it. Prefer a stronger cinnamon flavor? Use two teaspoons instead of one. Just be sure to keep the general measurement guidelines the same as you go along.

When I make granola, my family utilizes it mostly as a topping for yogurt. We almost always serve that with some sort of fresh fruit or a good-quality jam/preserve. If we want the granola more for snacking on its own, I usually toss in some dried fruit after the granola comes out of the oven ... we prefer the combination of raisins, dried cherries and dried apricots added in.

I will mention that this granola is not overly sweet. Honey and a little brown sugar are included in the ingredient list, but I don't like my granola cloyingly sweet. I should note, also, that I use unsweetened coconut, but sweetened can be used if desired. We usually serve our granola, yogurt and fruit "bowls" with honey drizzled on top, so that gives everything a little touch of additional sweetness, too.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mexicali Loaded Salad Bowl with Creamy Avocado Lime Dressing

I am a sucker for loaded salads in the summer. I especially dig salads that are substantial and filling enough to stand alone as a meal. This Mexicali Loaded Salad Bowl is one of those salads.

I love that loaded salads are usually a pretty economical choice as a summer meal option ... one or two chicken breasts, for example, can be stretched in a salad such as this one to feed like, four people. And, although the ingredient list may appear to be a little long, everything is super inexpensive and many are items we tend to have on hand.

This salad starts with a base of crisp iceberg lettuce. Then, ingredients like, seasoned grilled chicken, brown rice, crispy tortilla strips, grilled corn and beans are simply arranged atop the lettuce in a large serving bowl in whatever manner you desire. This monster of a salad then gets served with a creamy avocado dressing and lots of lime wedges. It's a salad that's bursting at the seams with flavor and is laden to the hilt with amazing textures. It's the perfect combo of fresh veggies, tender bites of chicken, citrus zip, a touch of heat and a whole bunch of deliciousness.

Pair with a cold beer and you've got yourself one winner of a summer salad.

Serves 4.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Summer Quinoa and Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

The heat and humidity have really kicked in just in the past week or so here in Southern Michigan. We've had quite the mild summer up until now (pretty much ideal weather for this girl). It has been around seventy degrees during the day and has cooled down to the high-fifties at night. We've had enough rain to keep everything green and watered. And, have enjoyed just perfect weather conditions overall. Bliss.

Up until now. The heat index has been close to 100 degrees over the past week or so. Blah!

(Can you tell that I don't do well with high temps and lots of humidity?)

Much of our summer meals are centered around salads, grilling and sandwiches (like, my Sonoma Chicken Salad Sandwich). You probably won't find me slaving away over a big pot of chicken and dumplings very often this time of year. Instead, I serve a lot of salads - all sorts of fresh, beautiful salads. They may be big, loaded salad bowls served family-style (such as my Berry "Peachy Keen" Grilled Chicken Salad Bowl) or some version of a taco salad.

This salad is light and chocked full of fresh ingredients. It is incredibly simple and quick to whip up. The vinaigrette is super flavorful and couldn't be easier to make.

You will regularly find brown rice, quinoa, farro and/or wheat berries on-hand in my fridge. I like to cook up batches to have ready to use in salads or for side dishes. And, since I always have lots of fresh fruits and veggies stocked up each week throughout the summer, salads such as this one come together in a matter of minutes. The recipe can easily be adapted to serve more people if needed as a side dish for a party or gathering. Or, it can be prepared as shown to serve as a simple summer lunch or dinner option for a couple of people.

Serves 2.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Strawberry, Apple and Rhubarb Crisp

I am currently savoring a couple of weeks - the only couple of weeks actually - of the year that we have absolutely nothing on the schedule/calendar. Like, seriously ... this does not happen often. My three children still living at home are involved in a zillion different extra-curricular activities throughout the entire year - baseball, softball, marching band, basketball, cross country, volleyball, quiz bowl, charity events, track, theater and ... well, you get the picture.

These present two weeks are void of any activity, event, appointment, meeting or otherwise. I, literally, have only left my house TWICE in the past eight days ... to get some groceries.

It has been pure bliss! I have been sleeping in, staying in my pajamas most of the day, playing board games with the kiddos, catching up on my DVR recordings, doing a boatload of cooking/baking and working on the blog. Utter heaven.

Speaking of heaven ... I love making crisps, cobblers and crumbles throughout the summer months.

The concept of making a "crisp" is simple - top cut fruit (yes, I am aware that rhubarb is actually a veggie) with a quick and easy oat topping that is kissed with just the perfect amount of sugar and spice. Pop it all in the oven until bubbly and serve warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. I urge you to whip one up as soon as possible ... celebrate our bountiful summer fruits in the most-perfect way.

And, if you need me, I'll be kicking back by the pool, listening to the radio, watching the kids swim, enjoying a big glass of my Summertime Fruity Lemonade and thinking of this amazing dessert. (Well, for another week or so. Then, it's band camp and volleyball lessons for the little munchkins of the house .. and back to reality.) I'm hanging on to and relishing these lazy days of summer as long as I can, though.

Serves 6.

Berry "Peachy Keen" Grilled Chicken Salad Bowl

I've been on a bit of a salad bowl kick as of late. I've made my Asian slaw version many times over this summer. And, I'm still loving my quinoa salad bowl - made with juicy citrus and a lemon poppy seed vinaigrette - that I shared last year with you. This past week, I recipe tested this Berry "Peachy Keen" Grilled Chicken Salad Bowl much to the delight of my children. (I swear they were ready with forks drawn before I could even shoot the photos for this post since the salad includes grilled chicken, strawberries and peaches - a few of their most favorite things to eat during the summer.)

I really love salads made in this fashion. I like how the ingredients are arranged in rows and/or fanned out in a purposeful manner. I always find that beautifully presented food is simply more appealing. (We eat with our eyes first, right?) Secondly, one can easily double or even triple the ingredients to serve a larger crowd, as needed, when making salad bowls. (Individuals bowls for each person can even be made instead of one large bowl, too.)

Best of all, I find that making up a big salad bowl like this is pretty economical compared to say, grilling a big chicken breast for each person to be served with a couple of sides. Instead, everything is right here - the perfect all-in-one meal during the warm summer months. One or two chicken breasts - once sliced or cubed up - go a long way towards serving several people when combined in a large salad with various other ingredients such as this.

Fresh, colorful, healthful, vibrant and simple to prepare ... I urge you to try a salad bowl such as this one this summer.

Serves 2 -3.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

My $500 Kitchen Remodel

For those following along with Our Home Renovation Project, I thought I'd share an update on my kitchen now that it is pretty much finished. (I am calling it a "remodel." But, really ... it's more of an upgrade. Still, I think it's pretty amazing considering the small amount of money we actually put into the whole room.)

We knew when we took possession of the house last summer that we would be updating some rooms and doing some remodeling projects prior to moving in. So, having the keys in hand didn't mean moving in right away. Instead, it meant DIY and renovation time. (We didn't have a set time to be out of our previous home, so we were able to take our time while doing the work.)

First up on our to-do list was the kitchen. Although we would have loved to have "gutted" the whole thing and started from scratch (or, rather would have loved to have been able to hire someone else  to come in to gut the whole thing and start from scratch), it just wasn't in our budget. So, we decided to embrace what was there and work with it to the best of our ability. We're not professionals and I'm sure there are those who would have done things differently, but we love how things turned out. It may not be considered a "high-end" kitchen, but we're thrilled with what we were able to accomplish on our own.

We were pleased with the layout of the kitchen, so we only (HA!) needed to update the cabinets, make some (major) improvements to the grout countertops, drywall over a built-in wall shelving area that we didn't care for (shown in the top BEFORE photo - on the long wall to the right), paint the room and install new trim. And, although I don't particularly love white appliances, the stove, dishwasher and fridge are in great shape and I can live with them for the time being. I, also, stained an existing island that I already had on hand from our previous home and I stained two large, antique oak cabinets that I already had. The massive amount of storage in those pieces is amazing and perfect for housing my collection of blog staging dishes, props and the like.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Amaretto Crème Brûlée

It is my humble belief that crème brûlée is quite possibly the best dessert on the planet. Luxurious and sexy, it is perhaps the ultimate in dessert fare. I adore it. My family begs me to make it. (We practically lick the ramekins clean.) We are sad when the last one in the fridge is gone. We order it whenever it is on the menu while dining out. I have introduced many people in my life to this dessert and they inevitably come to crave it just as much as I do.

Seriously. It's pretty darn amazing.

I, typically, make the traditional vanilla-style crème brûlée, but recently began experimenting with different flavors and add-ins. This amped up version has become a favorite of mine.

The flavor notes of the amaretto combine so beautifully with the silkiness and creaminess of the custard. I am totally in love with this version. Of course, the crackling of the glass-like sugar topping brings this dessert full circle. I just couldn't imagine enjoying the custard nearly as much without it, so I beg of you not to skip that part of the recipe.

As far as dessert recipes go, crème brûlée truly is super basic ingredient-wise. You'll be using only a handful of simple ingredients - cream/milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. For this version, a little amaretto (a sweet, almond-flavored Italian liqueur) is used to enhance the dessert and to truly wow  your senses.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Twenty-Minute Garlic Yukon Gold Baby Potatoes {Stove Top Method}

I love simple recipes. I love potatoes. This recipe is the perfect marriage of both. Can I get an amen, friends?

Looking for an ultra-simple, yet ultra-tasty side dish? I've got you covered with this rockin' recipe. And, you'll love the short, no-nonsense ingredient list.

I've always roasted potatoes in the oven. I recently set out to attempt to achieve the same result as oven-roasting except that I wanted to cut the time way down and I wanted not to have to heat up my oven.  This couldn't-be-simpler recipe is the end result of my recent experimentation.

First, I think you'll enjoy how short and simple the ingredient list is for this dish. Basically, you need just three ingredients - olive oil, baby potatoes and garlic. (Of course, I consider salt and pepper as "freebies.") If you'd like, you can garnish the cooked potatoes with fresh parsley or snipped chives at time of service. And, just for fun, I sprinkled on a little freshly-shaved Parmesan.

These are great served as-is or you can serve them with a sour cream and chive dipping sauce. Of course, my kids seem to enjoy them with ketchup. A creamy ranch-style dressing is, also, good with these.

Serves 4.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Moroccan Quinoa and Bulgur Salad

We all know that salads can get boring. The iceberg. The shredded cheese. Maybe a slice or two of cucumber. And, don't forget that creamy, bottled dressing. I try to think outside of the box, so-to-speak. I like to use fruits in my salad. I almost always include nuts and seeds in my salads. And, I really prefer to prepare my own dressing.

Also, it's okay to not always have the mindset that the bulk or centerpiece of a salad has to be lettuce or other leafy greens. I love using grains and pastas as the base for a salad. Here, I've used a quinoa and bulgur mix. Using just quinoa works great, too, for this recipe. Couscous is typical in Moroccan cuisine, so that would probably sub in well, also.

The vinaigrette is ultra simple to prepare, yet very complex in flavors. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the warmth of ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground ginger in this dressing. And, you'll certainly savor the brightness of the orange and lemon. The fresh mint in the salad is really important, so try not to skip it. And, the reconstituted dried cherries and raisins lend a sweetness that truly makes this salad shine.

What is wonderful about this salad, too, is that it is actually marvelously better after it chills out in the fridge overnight. So, it's a great make-ahead. It's perfect to have on hand for your upcoming work week or to serve at a summer gathering.

Serves 4.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Citrus & Ginger Fish en Papillote {Fish in Parchment Paper}

This is one of my favorite methods for making fish. It is a light, healthy and quite simple recipe. The packets can be made a few hours in advance and there is minimal cleaning up to do after dinner. I've made Fish en Papillote many ways throughout the years, but I really love the flavors and simplicity of this version. This pairs well with a salad, rice or quinoa.

The simple cooking liquid that is used within the packet is, also, amazing for drizzling atop the fish after cooking. So, I always reserve a little for time of service. The liquid not only adds a huge bolt of fresh flavor and brightness to this recipe, but it keeps the fish ultra moist (no oil or butter is even needed in this recipe).

The concept here is simple. Stack up the veggies and fish on top of a piece of parchment paper. Add in a little of the citrus and ginger liquid. Seal tightly and bake. My children love that these are individualized ... so they can help make their own packets.

Yields 4 servings.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Giveaway from Enviroboards by Sunlife Brands

With spring upon us, I've been so thrilled to start enjoying some of my warmer-weather favorite foods and recipes. I've been dreaming of Grilled Asparagus, fresh melon (Margarita Watermelon Wedges, anyone?) and my Sonoma Chicken Salad. This past weekend, the kids helped me with lots of chopping when we made another of my spring/summer faves - my "Veggie Overload" Pasta Salad.

I was recently given the opportunity to try out Sunlife Brand's new Enviroboards. When I first set my sights on the set of three flexible cutting boards, I fell in love with the colors. But, most of all, I fell in love with the ease of use of Enviroboards and the knowledge that I can more-safely prepare food for my family.

Enviroboards are a new style of cutting boards that are made from natural ingredients. They are BPA free and FDA approved. They offer a cool icon labeling feature (one for fish, one for meat and one for produce) ... helping to protect against cross-contamination.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Loaded Slaw Salad with Asian Sesame Ginger Dressing

Ahhh. It feels so good to be back to blogging. Between the remodeling of the home we took possession of just before fall, oodles of kids' activities, a computer wiped out by several nasty viruses a few weeks back and the complete malfunction/demise of my (needed-to-be-replaced-anyway) camera, it's been a while since I've brought a new post your way here on JD.

But, my sweet hubby recently surprised me with the camera I had been drooling over for the last year. I love it, but will admit that I am so incredibly overwhelmed by it and really don't have the slightest clue as what I'm doing with it. I plan to spend a big chunk of my time in the future weeks watching lots of video tutorials and doing tons of research on this thing. And, I'm gearing up for enormous amounts of practice to get the hang of taking better pics.