Sunday, July 29, 2012

On the Menu: Grilled Shrimp and Green Bean Salad, Turkey Burgers with Rosemary and Onions, Fiesta Salad, Baked Chicken and Rice with Black Beans, Twice-Baked Potatoes

Ryan and I often question whether or not we are doing a good job as parents.  When our heads hit the pillow at the end of the day we both know we did our best at raising our children.  There are times where we feel completely rotten, like the other night when Tessa decided to throw a MAJOR tantrum, saying no to everything, throwing her toothbrush on the floor, etc.  I found myself close to tears after all was said and done.  I looked at Ryan and said, "I hate it when she does that.  I hate having to get after her."  It reminded me of times when my sister and I would misbehave and my dad would look at us and say, "Girls, don't make me have to be a parent right now." 

But, then there are the times when Tess will look at us and say (unprovoked), "I love my little family.  I love my little brother, my daddy, my mama, and Riley."  This, of course, melts our hearts.  We pick her up at preschool and even her teachers tell us about how much she talks about her family during the day and how much she loves us.  Ryan and I tell each other we must be doing SOMETHING right.

To all you parents out there:  Here's to making mistakes and hoping for the best!

****This recipe takes a lot of prep, so make it on a relaxing weekend or uneventful day (whatever those are) because the end result is SO worth it!  Tessa told me she loved her dinner when I made this.
Grilled Shrimp and Green Bean Salad adapted from Southern Living Annual Recipes
8 Wooden skewers
1 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
2 lb. peeled, medium-size raw shrimp
Basil Vinaigrette, divided (recipe follows)
6 cooked bacon slices, crumbled
1 1/3 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup roasted, salted almonds (I just had roasted on hand)
Cornbread (optional)

1.  Soak wooden skewers in water to cover 30 minutes.
2.  Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain, pat dry, and place in a large bowl.
3. Combine shrimp and 3/4 cup Basil Vinaigrette in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag; seal and chill 15 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove shrimp from marinade, discarding marinade.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.
4.  Grill shrimp, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350 to 400 degrees) 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink.  Remove shrimp from skewers; toss with green beans, bacon, cheese, almonds, and remaining 3/4 cup Basil  Vinaigrette.  Serve over hot cornbread, if desired.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Basil Vinaigrette
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
4 large shallots, minced (feel free to cut back on this-I love shallots, but they can be over powering)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp seasoned pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup olive oil

Whisk together first 7 ingredients in a small bowl until blended; gradually add olive oil, whisking constantly until blended.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups

***These are good for you and yummy!  Don't leave out the rosemary-it totallymakes this recipe!
Turkey Burgers with Rosemary and Onions adapted from Southern Living Annual Recipes
1 pkg. lean ground turkey breast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tbsp butter, divided
1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh or dried rosemary
Vegetable cooking spray
1 package goat cheese, sliced (I use Swiss, but you can also use blue cheese or Gorgonzola)
6 whole grain white hamburger buns
Toppings:  lettuce, Dijon mustard, tomato slices

1.  Gently combine first 4 ingredients.  Shape mixture into 6 thin patties; cover and chill 30 minutes.
2.  Melt 1 tbsp butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and rosemary, and saute 10 minutes or until onion is tender and golden.  Remove onion mixture from skillet.
3.  Melt remaining 1/2 tbsp butter in same skillet over medium heat.  Cook patties 6 mintues on each side or until no longer pink in center.  Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet or broiler pan coated with cooking spray.
4.  Top each patty evenly with onion mixture and 1 cheese slice. Broil 6 inches from heat 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.  Serve on hamburger buns with desired toppings.
Makes 6 servings.

***I had a get together with my co-workers and I was asked to bring a side dish for our Mexican themed meal.  This was a great addition!
Fiesta Salad adapted from Southern Living Annual Recipes
10 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves
1 1/2 cups chopped tomato or cherry tomato halves
2 avocados, diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup tortilla chips, crushed

Toss together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Top with crushed tortilla chips.  Makes 8 servings

***This looks so pretty in a bowl.  Ryan looked at it and said, "This has almost every vegetable imaginable in it."  Carrots sound a little odd, but make sense once you try it.  I even had the leftovers the next day for lunch in a tortilla.
Baked Chicken and Rice with Black Beans adapted from Southern Living Magazine Feb. 2009
1 (10 oz.) pkg. yellow rice mix (I used white rice b/c that's what I had!)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (or red!)
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
2 cups (8 oz) grated Monterey Jack cheese (I used a combo of cheddar and Monterey Jack)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare rice according to package directions.
2.  Meanwhile, saute onion, bell pepper, and carrot in hot oil in a medium skillet over medium heat 10 minutes or until tender.
3.  Combine hot cooked rice, onion misture, chicken, beans, diced tomatoes and chiles, and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a large bowl.  Spoon into a lightly greased 3 qt or 13 x 9 inch baking dish; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
4.  Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

***My new favorite thing is twiced baked potatoes.  You can add so much to them if you want to.  I have even added cauliflower puree to the potato pulp to add an extra nutitional umph to them.  No, I wasn't trying to be sneaky!  Ryan knew I had done it and you couldn't even taste the difference!
Twice Baked Potatoes adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 15th edition
4 medium baking potatoes
1/2 cup dairy sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
milk (optional)
3/4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp snipped fresh chives (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Scrub potatoes thoroughly with a brush, pat dry.  Prick potatoes with a fork.  Bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until tender. 

Let potatoes stand for about 10 minutes.  Cut a lengthwise slice off the top of each baked potatos; discard skin from slices and place pulp in a bowl.  Scoop out potato pulp; add to the bowl.
Mash the potato pulp with a potato masher or an electric mixer on low speed.  Add sour cream, garlic salt, and pepper; beat until smooth (If necessary, stir in 1 to 2 tbsp milk to reach desired consistency)  Season to taste with salt and additional black pepper.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese and, if desired, chives.  Spoon the mashed potato mixture into the potato shells.  Place in a 2 qt baking dish.
Bake uncovered in the 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 2 to 3 minutes more or until chese melts.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On the Menu: Grilled Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce, Chicken Fajita Salad, Banana Pecan Pancakes

For this week, I have another fun spin on breakfast for dinner and a couple chicken dinners that will do double duty for you.  The white barbecue sauce has multiple uses-not just for chicken!  I hope you enjoy the recipes!

Grilled Chicken with White Barbecue Sauce adapted from Southern Living 2007 Annual Recipes
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
10 chicken thighs (about 3 lbs)  ***I used thighs and drumsticks.

1.  Combine first 7 ingredients.  Rinse chicken, and pat dry; rub mixture evenly over chicken.  Place chicken in a zip-top plastic freezer bag.  Seal and chill 4 hours.  Remove chicken from bag, discarding bag.
2.  Grill chicken, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350-400 degrees) 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 180 degrees.  Serve chicken wtih White Barbecue Sauce.  Makes 5 servings.

White Barbecue Sauce (This sauce is so delicious.  It's tangy and pairs perfectly with the spices in the chicken.)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp coarsely ground pepper
1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp horseradish (I LOVE horseradish!  It's one of the weird cravings I had when pregnant with Tessa.  I made as many things as I could that had horseradish as an ingredient.)

Stir together all ingredients until well blended.  Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.  Makes 1 3/4 cups.
You can serve the sauce as a topping for baked potatoes or a condiment for burgers.

***Now, you will have leftovers from this dinner, so why not chop up some of the chicken, removing the skins and use it in the Chicken Fajita Salad????  Nice!

Chicken Fajita Salad adapted from Southern Living 2007 Annual Recipes
1/2 (24 oz.) package frozen grilled chicken breast strips (just use leftover chicken!)
1 large onion, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
4 (10 inch) burrito-size flour tortillas
1 medium head iceberg lettuce, torn (about 6 cups)
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with peppers (I just used regular Monterey Jack)
Toppings:  sour cream, salsa, guacamole, Ranch dressing, lime wedges, chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare chicken strips according to stovetop package directions.  (Or just warm up last night's leftovers!)  Remove chicken from skillet.
Saute onion, bell pepper, and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in skillet over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.  Stir in chicken strips and 2 tbsp water, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated.
Arrange tortillas in 4 individual serving bowls.  Divide lettuce and cheese evenly in tortilla lined bowls.  Top with hot chicken mixture.  Serve with desired toppings.  Makes 4 servings.

***I love breakfast for dinner, so when I have the time to make it, I try to put my own spin on the trusty old toast and eggs or pancakes and waffles.  This recipe starts with your own homemade Pancake mix-so no Bisquick up in here!

Pancake Mix adapted from SL 2007 Anuual Recipes
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp salt

Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl; store in a zip-top plastic bag up to 6 weeks.

Banana-Pecan Pancakes (My husband said these tasted like banana nut bread in a pancake.)
1 1/2 cups pancake mix
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I use the powdered buttermilk that you can find on the baking aisle.  You just add water to it.  Thanks Mama for that suggestion!)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 chopped banana  (You can omit these if you want to.)
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans  (You can also omit these, too.)

Combine Pancake mix and sugar in a medium bowl.
Whisk together 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, egg, and oil; add to dry ingredients, whisking just until lumps disappear.
Stir in 1 chopped banana and 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans into batter.
Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or large nonstick skillet.  Cook pancakes 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges begin to look cooked; turn and cook 2 more minutes or until done.  Makes 4 servings (about 15 pancakes)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Baby Food Breakdown

This is for all you Mamas of little ones!  When Tessa as a baby I did not make my own baby food for her and wish I had.  She turned out just fine, but I really wanted to give it another try with my Dempsey bear.  I have two cookbooks that I have referred to to get started:

Cooking for Baby
Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious Foods for 6 to 18 Months

and Tyler Florence's Start Fresh Cookbook (this is actually a Christmas present for a good friend, but I couldn't resist a sneak peek!)
Product Details

What I have learned from these two books is just how easy it is to make your own baby food at home!  All you need is a pot with a steamer basket, blender, food processor, rimmed roasting pan (rimmed cooking sheet), ice cube trays, and freezer bags! 

Our doctor recommended introducing foods to Dempsey by doing a fruit, vegetable, fruit, vegetable, and so on.  He said this would prevent the child from developing only a likeness for sweet fruits.  He also suggested waiting three days after introducing a new food to see how the child reacts to the new food.  Tyler Florence recommends using a blender to mix first foods because it creates a smoother consistency and then usign a food processor once the baby is used to eating these first foods becuase a food processor tends to give foods a thicker consistency.

Once I make the pureed baby food, I let it cool and then spoon it into ice cube trays.  Once it is frozen I pop it out and into freezer bags.  I then label the bag with the food and the date which I make it.  Depending on who you talk to, baby foods can last up to three months in the freezer and three days in the fridge. 

To feed Dempsey, I take two of the ice cube foods and place them in one cup glass bowls that I purchased and they come with lids.  Then I put the bowl in the fridge in the morning and it is thawed by the time I need to feed it to the Little Bear.  Since I store it in a glass bowl, I feel comfortable heating up the food in the microwave.  I stir it to even out the hot spots and wait a few minutes to make sure it's not too hot.

So far, Demps has tried apples and sweet potatoes with success!  I plan on then moving onto pears, peas, carrots, and maybe bananas!  Neither cookbook has a recipe for just bananas.  I'm thinking this is because bananas don't freeze well.

Here are some recipes for homemade baby food! 

Apple Puree (makes 2 cups) This would also make a good base for applesauce!
6 Golden or Red Delicious apples, quartered and cored just before cooking

Bring 1 inch water to a boil in a pot.  Put apples in a steamer basket, set in pot, cover tightly, and steam until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10-12 minutes.

Let cool, reserving cookign liquid.  Scrape flesh from skins and puree in a food processor until smooth.  Add reserved cooking liquid to thin the puree, if desired.

Refrigerate cooled apple puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.  There will be some slight discoloration during storing.

Pear Puree (makes 2 cups)
4 ripe pears, quartered and cored just before cooking

Bring 1 inch water to a boil in a pot.  Put pears in a steamer basked, set in pot, cover tightly, and steam until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 7-10 minutes, depending on ripeness.

Let cool and scrape flesh from skins.  Puree pears in a food processor until smooth.  As baby gets older, add baby's cereal to thicken this liquidy puree, if desired.
Refrigerate cooled pear puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.  There will be some slight discoloration during storing.

Sweet Potato Puree (makes 2 cups)
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prick sweet potatoes with a small knife and place on a baking sheet.

Roast until wrinkled and tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 45-60 minutes.  Let cool.

Halve sweet potatoes, scoop out flesh from skins, and puree flesh in a food processor until smooth.  Add water, breast milk, or formula to think sweet potatoes to a consistency your baby can handle.  As baby gets older and can eat thicker purees, mash some or all of the sweet potato with a fork.

This can also be used for baking potatoes as well.

Refrigerate cooled sweet potato puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.  There will be some slight discoloration during storing.

Sweet Pea Puree (makes 1 1/2 cups)
Peas, fresh or frozen, 2 cups (10 oz.)

Bring 1 inch water to a boil in a pot.  Put peas in a steamer basket, set in pot, cover tightly, and steam until bright green and tender enouch to mash easily with a fork, 5-7 minutes for fresh or hard frozen peas and 3 minutes for thawed frozen.  Remove basket from pot, reserving cooking liquid.  Rinse peas under running cold water to stop the cooking.

Puree peas until smooth.  Add cooking liquid, breast milk, or formula to thin pea puree to a consistency your baby can handle.

Refrigerate cooled pea puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice-cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.  There will be some slight discoloration during storing.

Carrot Puree
1 bunch carrots

Cut the greens off if needed.  Peel the carrots and then slice the carrots evenly into circles and set aside.

Bring about 1 cup of water to boil in a large pot over high heat.  Place carrot slices in steamer basket and place over boiling water.  Cover with lid and steam until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. 

Transfer to a blender or food processor while hot and puree.  Add some of the cooking water to thin out the puree.

Tyler Florence's book even has recipes for the following foods to feed baby:  summer squash or zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, turnips, cauliflower, and parsnips.  There really is no limit to what you can do to introduce your baby to new foods! 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Anniversary! Menu items: Brunch for a Bunch, Honeyed Chicken, Grilled Hamburgers with sour cream and herbs

Ry Guy and I are celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary on July 15th.  We have had a very eventful 6 years of married life.  I filled out a questionnaire about us and will include some meals to make this week!

1.  How did you all meet?
   We met in college.  We both attended Lynchburg College.  A mutual friend, Kevin Graves, told me I had to meet two of his friends who were also from Richmond.  He introduced me to Ryan and his roommate Justin our freshman year.  All three of them ran cross country and track together while I played soccer.  Being an avid football fan, I was looking for someone to watch Sunday football with and someone who was a fan of the Redskins.  Every weekend I would head over to Ryan and Justin's dorm room to watch football with the two of them and Kevin.  I only considered Ryan to be a friend and enjoyed spending time with him and the guys.  Second semester of our freshman year, we found out we had a class together called Argument and Reasoning.  Luckily for us, our first assignment was to interview a classmate and present the interview of the other person as an introduction to the class.  Ryan and I got paired up.  It was a perfect opportunity to get to know him better and we realized we had more in common than we thought. 

2.  When did you all start dating?
     We made our relationship official on March 15th of 2003. 

3.  Where was your first date?
      To be honest, we don't remember our first date.  As freshmen, we did not have cars on campus, so we had to make do with just hanging out with each other.  We did end up borrowing someone's car to go on a date, but honestly don't remember where we went.

4.  What were your favorite memories of your courtship?
      We dated all through college.  Some of my favorite memories together were hiking the Peaks of Otter, going with Ryan to the various lakes in Lynchburg while he fished and I did schoolwork, running track and cross country with Ryan and the rest of the team....I loved meeting his family and introducing him to mine.  Ryan has a very goofy personality and he definitely was not afraid to show it to my family.  I brought him with me to our family's river house the first summer we were together.  We had an awesome time with my parents and sister and started packing up our stuff to go home on Sunday.  Ryan put the towel he had been using all weekend on his head and walked out to my parents who were sitting on the screened-in porch.  In a high-pitched voice he asked my parents where they would like him to put his towel.  It made my parents laugh and they still remember this story.

5.  When did you realize you were in love?
      For Ryan, it was a little sooner than for me.  He kept telling me he would just wait until I was ready to love him back, which made me like him even more.  I realized I loved Ryan when I met his family.  He wasn't shy about hugging both of his parents in front of other people and telling them he loved them.  I watched him interact with his younger sisters.  His younger sister was in high school at the time and his youngest sister was 6 and in the first grade.  I knew this relationship was very different from any of the other relationships I had been in.

6.  How did he propose?
      Little did I know, but Ryan had contacted my Dad to ask for his blessing before he popped the question.  I had just gotten back from a cross country meet and had the day off from practice.  Ryan wanted to hike the Peaks of Otter together.  It was a rainy, cloudy day, but as we hiked up the mountain, we went through the clouds and ended up finishing our hike in sunshine.  I went to the edge and looked down at the clouds below us and turned around to see Ryan on his knee and a ring in his hand.

7.  What was your wedding day like?
     We got married July 15, 2006 in Lynchburg.  We exchanged vows at the Snidow Chapel on Lynchburg's campus and had our reception at West Manor Bed and Breakfast.  It was really hot that day, but it didn't matter.  We had an amazing time with our family and friends and then enjoyed our honeymoon in Key Largo.

8.  What major events have happened since you got married?
      Geez, we bought a house and have steady careers.  In 2008, we welcomed our daughter, Tessa to the family and then in 2012, we added our Dempsey boy to the fam.

9.  What marriage advice would you give to other couples?
      Remember to laugh together and not take things too seriously.  Very often, Ryan and I find ourselves in stressful situations with our kids, work, or just life in general and we turn to each other and just start laughing because sometimes that's all you can do.  It helps us keep things on the light side.

Happy 6th anniversary, Ry!

The recipes for this week are fairly simple and of course include a new burger recipe to try.  The honeyed chicken recipe makes use of ingredients most of us have on hand and the Brunch for a Bunch recipe is a good one for breakfast for dinner.

Brunch for a Bunch
1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage
3 frozen hash brown patties (I used 4)
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 can green chilies, chopped
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk

Brown and drain sausage.  In a 8 x 8 inch greased dish, layer starting with potatoes, then sausage, cheese, and chilies.  Combine eggs and milk, stirring well.  Pour over layers.  Bake at 350 degress for 50 minutes.  This recipe can easily be doubled!

Honeyed Chicken
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. butter
Chicken pieces
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Combine honey, mustard, lemon juice, and salt.  Melt butter in foil-lined pan.  Place chicken skin side down.  Baste wtih honey mix.  Bake 1/2 hour (350 degrees).  Turn, baste, bake 1/2 hour more; basting with remainder of mix.

Grilled Hamburgers with Sour cream and Herbs
2 2/3 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespon minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried, crumbled
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary or 1/4 tsp dried, crumbled
3/4 tsp ground black pepper

8 hamburger buns, split

Combine first 6 ingredents thoroughly in medium bowl.  Shape beef mixture into eight 1-inch thick patties.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.  Place burgers on grill.  Cover grill and cook burgers 4 minutes.  Turn burgers.  Cover grill and cook burgers to desired doneness, about 4 minutes longer for medium-rare.  Grill buns, inner sides down, during last 2 minutes if desired. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy July! Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Wilted Spinach, Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream, Perfect Pork Burgers, Chicken Salad

July is one of my favorite months for a few reasons.  My wonderful husband was born in the month of July, we were married during this month, my grandmother also celebrates her birthday, July is the one full month that teachers have off during the year, and the country celebrates its independence!  I love it!  (There have been plenty of unpleasant things that have happened in my lifetime during the month of July, but the good stuff totally outweighs the bad.) 

I still have yet to make the fajitas and sausage burgers from this past week because of schedule changes, etc., but the corn dogs and the lo mein were huge hits at the Fletcher house!  Ryan even made the comment that we probably really don't ever have to eat out since we can make most everything at home.  Yay!  :)

I hope you enjoy this week's recipes!

***Chicken thighs are fun to cook with and a nice change-up to the old standby of chicken breasts.  I like it when my grocery store has the boneless, skinless chicken thighs on sale.  I bought two cases.  I'll use one for this recipe and cook the other case so I will have cooked chicken on hand.  This recipe comes from a blog called The Cookbook Junkie.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Wilted Spinach
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons hot chili garlic sauce

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 large handfuls baby spinach leaves

1.  In a small bowl, mix the marinade ingredients together.
2.  Place the thighs in a large resealable plastic bag.  Pour in the marinade.  Seal the bag tightly and turn it to distribute the marinade over the chicken.  Place bag in a bowl and refrigerate 1-2 hours, turning the bag occasionally.  (I might even marinate it overnight)
3.  Remove the thighs from the bag, reserving the marinade.  Pour the marinade in a very large skillet and set aside.  Grill the thighs over direct high heat until the meat is firm and juices run clear, 8-10 minutes.  Turn once or twice.
4.  Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a boil over high heat and allow to boil for 1 minute.  Add the spinach leaves and cook until the spinach is just wilted, 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally.  Serve the warm spinach mixture under the chicken.

***This next recipe is an old stand-by.  Again, we love Italian sausage in our house and find multiple uses for it.  This was one of the first recipes I made as a married woman and needless to say, the hubby loved it.  The sauce has a nice kick to it and don't skip out on the cream.  You can substitute milk for it, but the cream really does give the sauce a nice color and texture.

Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian Sausage, casing removed
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red peper
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1/2 cup whipping cream

1 pound farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I have used Parmesan and it's just as good)

Heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and crushed red pepper.  Saute until sausage is no longer pink, breaking up with back of fork, about 5 minutes.  Add onion and garlic; saute until onion is tender and sausage is browned, about 3 minutes longer.  Add tomatoes and cream.  Reduce heat to love and simmer until sausage mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite.  Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.  Return pasta to same pot.  Add sausage mixture and toss over medium low heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry.  Transfer pasta to serving dish.  Sprinkle with basil.  Serve, passing cheese separately.

***This next recipe is another burger to try.  I'm holding to my word of trying a new burger every week!

Perfect Pork Burgers
5 slices bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Freshly ground pepper
4 potato buns, split
Unsalted butter, softened, for spreading
Coleslaw, for topping

1.  Pulse the bacon and garlic in a food processor until coarsely ground.
2.  Combine the ground pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the sage in a large bowl.  Add the bacon mixture and gently mix with your hands.  Gently form the meat into 4 balls, then lightly press into 4-inch-wide, 1-inch-thick patties.  Make a 2-inch-wide indentation in the center of each with your thumb to prevent the burgers from bluging when grilled.
3.  Preheat a grill to medium high.  Season the patties wtih pepper.  Grill, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, 5-6minutes.  Turn and grill until the other side is marked and the patties feel firm, 4 to 6 more minutes.  Meanwhile, spread the cut sides of the buns with butter and toast on the grill.
4.  Serve the patties on the buns; top with coleslaw.

***One of my goals this week is to get the whole family to the pool after Ry Guy comes home from work.  If we do this, we usually bring dinner with us since there really is no place to pick up a good meal on the way to the pool.  Chicken salad would be a great meal to have after playing with the kids together!

Chicken Salad
8 ounces chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise (could also try plain low-fat yogurt of Greek yogurt)
1 teaspoon snipped fresh basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel (optional)
Bread slices or salad greens

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, celery, and green onions.  For dressing, in a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, basil, salt, and lemon peel.  Pour dressing over chicken mixture and toss gently to coat.  Cover and chill 1 to 4 hours.  If desired, serve on bread or over salad greens.