Archive for the ‘Dinner’ Category

The weather in Florida is finally getting cooler.  I love cooler weather.  Our family can finally enjoy opening the windows and turning off the air conditioning for a while (hopefully).  I have been craving a good tomato-basil soup for a while now, so as soon as I woke up yesterday I decided that it would be the perfect soup along my other craving: grilled cheese.  You see my parents-in-law went out to California for Thanksgiving, that’s where they used to live for 20+ years, and spent some time with my sister-in-law, Keely.  As I was bidding them farewell I just casually slipped them a hint.  That if they wanted to bring me back anything, a loaf of San Fransisco sourdough bread is all I wanted.  Well, if they aren’t the best in-laws, I don’t know who is.  Guess what they brought me back? 

Of course you can make your grilled cheese with any bread, but I recommend finding a good sourdough loaf to take it to that next level 🙂

Fresh Tomato-Basil Soup 

4 lbs of tomatoes (I used 2 pints of grape tomatoes, 1 pint of heirloom tomatoes, and 1 big ugly tomato)
2 onions, approximately 2 1/2 cups
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 shallot, diced (or can substitue garlic)
1/4 cup basil, julienned, + more for garnish
2-3 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp salt + more to taste
2 tsp fresh ground pepper + more to taste
1 quart chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste (helps to develop flavor quicker)
3 tsp sugar
1/4 cup 2% milk
optional: croutons or parmesan shavings for garnish

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot at medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, salt and pepper to the pot and allow them to become soft and translucent, about 10 minutes; stirring periodically.







Now add the shallots, stir and continue to cook until you can press a carrot piece with the back of your spoon and it easily falls apart.







Next add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, stock, and finally the basil.







Allow your soup to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the tomtoes are soft and cooked down.  Now check for seasonings, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Now use your immersion blended (or in 2 batches in blender) and puree the soup down. If you don’t like bits of tomato skin you can strain your soup, but I personally love the bits and pieces of texture in this soup. You can also use a food mill if you have one.









Now I add the milk and give it a stir. Serve in a mug or bowl and top with your favorite garnishes- I used parmesan shavings and basil. Really great flavor, super fresh, hence the name 😉 and really nice thicker consistency.








Next the grilled cheese to eat along side your soup. 

sourdough loaf of bread cut into whatever thickness you prefer (i like medium thick slices 🙂 )
sharp yellow or white cheddar cheese, about 2 slices per sandwich
muenster cheese, 2 slices per sandwich
swiss cheese, 1 slice per sandwich
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp dijon mustard
3-4 tbsp of butter


Combine your mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl.  Spread this sauce on both insides of bread.  Next, arrange your cheddar slices on one sourdough slice of bread.  Place your swiss cheese in the middle and your muenster slices on the other side.  Top with your already mayo’d slice of bread.  You can either spread your butter lightly over both top and bottom of your sandwich bread-or if you want a little less butter, like me, I just used a brush to spread  it directly on my George Foreman grill..(I don’t have a panini grill yet, and this was a gift).  If you don’t have a panini press you can use a skilled and place a plate or heavy lid on top of you sandwiches, flipping halfway through.  Total time is about 4 minutes.  You can try your own combination of cheeses, let me know what the results are!

So there you have it, the perfect combination on a cool Florida evening:  fresh and hot tomato-basil soup with a crunchy crust on the outside, melty and cheesy on the inside with a slight tanginess from the sourdough and dijon, but a slight sweetness from your swiss cheese- sandwich.  And if you dip one into the other, some say fireworks go off…  a bit exagerated?  I don’t know 😉  Some really have seen said fireworks 🙂  I hope you enjoy this one!

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As I sit here writing this post my entire house is filled with sweet aromas of roasting red bell peppers and cornbread that is sitting on the counter beginning to cool.  These are the kinds of smells that whet my appetite for tomorrow and one of the many things that make Thanksgiving so exciting.  And I was so excited to find this recipe a few years ago in Fernando Saralegui’s Our Latin Table.  It is the perfect combination, in my opinion, of savory and slightly spicy combined with a little sweetness.  And it really is a wonderful blend of the traditional mixed with the sassy flavor of cuban-americans.  I was a never a fan of stuffing as a kid…come on stale bits of bread that come in a prepackaged bag with undercooked onions and celery combined to make some sort of gummy mush?  No thanks.  Of course since then I’ve found recipes that shame the aforementioned- but this is the one that changed it all!  At least for me that is.  If you don’t already have a set recipe you are using, this just may be your family’s new favorite!

Cornbread & Chorizo Stuffing

4 8.5 oz boxes cornbread mix
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 large Spanish onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced (to quote Emeril Lagasse “Yeah baby”)
4 small (7 oz) chorizo sausages, diced
2 roasted red bell peppers, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


Bake the cornbread according to package directions. 

 While the bread is still warm, cut it into cubes in the pan.  Let the bread sit at room temperature, uncovered, for 12 hours or overnight.  Remove the bread from the pan and crumble to make course breadcrumbs. 

 To toast the pine nuts, bake them on a sheet pan at 300°F for about 5 minutes until they turn golden brown.  Watch carefully as they will burn fast.  Immediately remove the nuts from the pan to a clean dish to stop them from cooking.



In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, pine nuts, sautéed onions and garlic, sausages, red pepper, and oregano, mixing well.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The stuffing can be up to this point a day in advance in an airtight container.

*I wanted to post this recipe before the big day, but I haven’t assembled everything together yet.  I just wanted to post this in case anyone out there wanted to make it today.  Here are a few pics of the steps I’ve done ahead of time.  And I will post more pictures once the dish is completed.

Guide to roasting and peeling peppers.  Put peppers on a sheet pan at 450°F.  Let them roast for 10 minutes or until charred, then with tongs rotate to all sides (about 5 min per side) until they are all done.  Take out of the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Skin will be wrinkled and easy to peel off.  Once peeled remove core and seeds.


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Florida Chili Con Carne

Last night Jeremy and I had to be somewhere at 6pm, and I wanted to make sure I had dinner ready before he got home.  I had a pound of lean ground beef in the fridge, and I wanted to use it to make something seasonal (of course).  So I looked in my fridge and saw that I had onions, beef stock, leftover pumpkin pureé and some jalapeños.  And in my pantry I have an array of canned beans and stewed tomatoes, as well as a leftover bottle of Merlot, so I decided I had everything I needed to make a chili con carne.  Except, Florida is sometimes too hot to really enjoy a pretty hearty, or in other words, heavy, dense stew.  I mean, let’s face it, we don’t need all those extra calories to survive the harsh, brutal, non-existent winters we have down here.  I know my Canadian-snow-bird-neighbors would agree :).  So I decided to see if I could thoughtfully create a lighter chili, without sacrificing any flavor… and I think I have achieved it!  My husband certainly thought so (he usually complains of, hmm.. bloatedness, heartburn, and heaviness after eating two or three bowls of chilli) :).  This time he was quite happy with the lack of side-effects..haha.  In other words, this chili will satisfy your desire for chili, without being heavy on your stomach, and there is a secret ingredient that gives it a creaminess (without being dense) that you wouldn’t imagine- you got it- pumpkin!

Florida Chili Con Carne

1 lb lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (leave seeds in if you like it spicier)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1/4 cayene pepper
1/4 tsp crushed coriander seed
1 32 oz can of peeled whole tomatoes
1 cup of pureéd pumpkin
16 oz of beef stock
1 ½ cups of merlot or red wine *(can be substituted with more beef stock)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems
1 16 oz can of black beans
1 16 oz can of red beans
3 cups of prepared brown rice


Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Once hot add your onions and garlic, stir and allow them to sweat and soften. 







Add salt and pepper, as well as your diced jalapeños. 







When onions start to look translucent add the ground beef, break up with a wooden spoon and allow to brown.  Add your spices and seasonings to the beef. 







Once your beef is browned add your entire can of tomatoes in, juices and everything, and use kitchen shears or the back of your spoon to chunk your tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Add the beef stock, merlot, and pumpkin pureé and stir. 








Also, chop your cilantro stems and add them into your chilli along with the 2 types of drained beans. 







Allow your chilli to simmer, this could be 40 minutes on a lower heat.  Or in my case, about 20 minutes (with me carefully watching it) on high heat, since I had less time today, while stirring ocassionaly.  In the meantime prepare some brown (or white) rice in another pot.







Finally when the chilli looks like it has thickned a little, and reduced slightly in amount, add the chopped cilantro leaves, stir, and take off the heat.  Serve over a bed of rice, and you can dollop it with sour cream or greek yogurt if you’d like.  I didn’t have any, and it was simply delicious by itself with the rice. 


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So things are getting back to normal in our house.  After 4 or 5 loads of laundry, plenty of dishes, vacuuming, a strict potty regiment (trying to get Lucas into cloth underwear fulltime, this means no accidents please!), vacuuming, and grocery shopping a good bit of that food creativity was drained a bit. But no worries!  Good thing I have a plethora of tried and tested recipes that I love!  And since my dad (yes, again, my dear father has bestowed on us some more goods) 😉 sent me home with a huge NY Strip left over from yesterday’s barbecue, I thought of the perfect way to use it: a Penne with Beef and Arugula recipe.  Again, this one is a Giada recipe, and who can blame me??  She is a cute italian chef who maintains her figure and lightens up her dishes so you don’t have to unbutton your pants when you’re finished with your pasta!  Not to mention, I don’t think any of the dishes I’ve made from any of her books are just “okay”.  Plus this recipe has arugula in it.  And I don’t need too many excuses to use that it my dishes.  If you haven’t cooked with arugula yet, please let me encourage you to do it.  This peppery slightly lemony green is just bursting with flavor and is just as delicious raw in a salad, as it is warm, served in pasta, or just used as a simple bed to place grilled steak over.  Let’s be done with boring iceberg lettuce and move on to the amazing greens God has given us to eat!  Not that God didn’t create iceberg lettuce.. but for you Florida folks, it is 2 for $5 this week at Publix, and Barilla pasta is buy one get one free.  So this is the perfect week to try this recipe!

Penne with Beef and Arugula


1 (1 lb) NY strip steak
1 tsp herbs de provence (if you don’t have this mix your favorite dry herbs, like oregano, rosemary, etc)
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tbsp
1 lb penne pasta ( i used 13 oz of Barilla Whole Grain pasta)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt, plus more for steak and pasta water
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (ran out so I used a lesser amount of dried basil)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups chopped arugula


Season the steak with salt and freshly ground pepper, herbs de Provence, and minced garlic.  In a skilled, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook steak for about 7 minutes on each side.  Remove the meat from pan and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Thinly slice  the steak.  Set aside.













Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender, but still firm to the bite (al dente), stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.

In a small bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, fresh herbs and 3/4 cup olive oil. 













In a large bowl toss the pasta with half of the salad dressing and the reserved pasta water. 



















Add the arugula and steak, more dressing (if needed), and season with salt and pepper, as needed.  Toss and serve. 

This is the perfect picnic/date food, by-the-way.

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Happy Reformation Day everyone!  Today is the day Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church almost 500 years ago.  This certainly changed so much in the existing Christian religion which at the time was mostly encompassed by the Catholic church.  Most of our lives have actually been affected by this act of Martin Luther so many years ago, both directly and indirectly, even by the very pioneers who came to this country seeking religious freedom- where they could worship God without being told “how” by their government.  Read more on the reformation here

Yesterday was a great day for our family.  We went to church, of course, then Jeremy got a call from the hospital so he could deliver a few babies, and he ended up delivering 2!  Then he found out his team, the San Fransisco 49ers won the game last night (which is huge, because in previous years they have done terribly!).  My parents and grandparents and sister came over last night bringing Lucas his new train table that he got for his birthday, so he was extremely excited.  And I offered to make everyone dinner.  Needless to say, but my husband was in heaven.  We had a great dinner and celebrated the birth of two new babies in the world by opening up a 2003 Marquez de Arianzo Spanish Rioja.

This dinner is extremely easy, so I wanted to post it especially for any of you out there who maybe somewhat afraid of a roast, or a slightly more or a “nicer” Sunday dinner.  This dinner will blow your guests socks off, without making you a slave to the kitchen!  So the menu was: Roasted Tuscan-style Pork Tenderloin with Basil & Parsley Potatoes and a Spinach, Apple, and Pecan Salad with an apple-cider vinaigrette.

Tuscan-Style Pork Tenderloin

2.5 lb whole pork tenderloin
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp chilli pepper flakes
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup white wine
(all of ingredients I had readily available, but you can substitute your favorite herbs if you’d like)


Preheat your oven to 400°.  Adjust your racks so there are two centered in the middle of the oven.

  Place tenderloin on a 9×13 baking dish.  It may fall apart into two different parts, but that’s ok. 







In a small separate bowl mix ingredients 2-12 together (from garlic to apple-cider vinegar).  It will be a sort of wet paste. 

dry ingredients and garlic

Take your wet “rub” and rub it all over your pork, be generous, and use all of it. 







Next we are going to use kitchen twine (or any good solid twine will work) and tie the two separate pieces of your loin that have fallen apart (if you have this issue) back together.  I usually use two longer pieces that I wrap around twice and tie off.  Then I repeat this on the other half of the pork.  You want it to simply look like the pork looked before you took it out of the package. 

Basil, Parsley & Olive Oil Potatoes
2 28oz bags of celebration potatoes (small yellow, red, and purple potatoes)
1/4 cup of fresh chopped basil
1/2 cup of fresh chopped flat-leaf italian parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 tsp of kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Place potatoes in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil first, then add all the other ingredients and toss again. 







Place in another 9×13 baking dish.  Leave in oven the length of time of pork.







Before putting everything in the oven, I threw some baby carrots around the sides of the pork, as a veggie to have, and you don’t even have to season them, since they will pick up the flavors of the pork.  

Place the potatoes on the bottom rack of the oven, and the pork on the rack above it.  In about 20 minutes take your tenderloin out of the oven, and drizzle and moisten it with your wine and apple cider (you can use only cider if you prefer), then cover the pork with alumium foil.  Place back in the oven for another 30-40 minutes, or until your cooking thermometer reads 145°F.  This will achieve a slightly pink and juicy pork.  I hate dry pork, but if you like no pink in it, then you may want to cook it to 155-160°, which used to be the standard.  Just remember that the ends will usually be slightly more cooked than the middle.  This is how you appease a big family with varying preferences 🙂 

Let your roast stand, covered, for 5 minutes before carving.  To carve, transfer roast to a cutting board, remove the cooking twine, and with a sharp knife cut slices of pork about 1/2-3/4 ” thick.  Once all of it is sliced, place back into your pan filled with juices and carrots.  Serve family style with potatoes, and salad. 






I won’t include the complete recipe for the salad today.  But I will tell you what I did.  I used baby spinach, sliced apples, toasted pecan pieces, feta cheese and craisins.  My dressing was a homemade apple-cider vinaigrette that I heated up with a handful of craisins to rehydrate. Once nice and warm, and the craisins plump, I tossed the salad with it and served it.  You can use a store-bought dressing and do the same with this, or, you can wait and I will eventually post the vinaigrette recipe 🙂 



















Like I said before- I may have spent a maximum time of 20 minutes in the kitchen total with this.  The rest of the time I got to hang out with family.  I hope you’ll give this a try.  This one definitley got rave reviews, and of course, is in keeping with the “autumn theme” :). This serves about 8 hungry people!  Enjoy!

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Arroz con Salchicha

Good Morning friends!  Last night was a busy one, so today’s post will be something I consider really easy.  A latin-inspired dish of Rice and Sausage or Arroz con Salchicha.  At this point you may be asking yourself why I use sausage so much.  Answer:  we had a big family barbecue and my dad tends to buy too much food and then insist I take it home with me to freeze.  Of course I almost always say yes to free food.  In this case they weren’t just plain ordinary sausages, they were specialty Brazilian spicy chicken sausages, so I was happy to take on this burden ;). 

A little on this dish.  My husband is very familiar with this style of dish, because I have made it so many times.  When I was in the Air Force, there were days I came home too tired to supervise various pots and pans and worry about timing my vegetables and risotto perfectly with my roast in the oven.  No, there were days one pot was enough to handle.  So this is exactly that.  A one-pot dish that you can eventually let boil,  lower to a simmer, and go sip a glass of wine or iced tea while it finishes up.  Or in my case, entertain my 2-year-old so he doesn’t find the need to hide my camera just so he can watch me as I desperately try to find it again.  Ahh..life.  Because this is such a relaxed dish, know that you can substitute pretty much anything to suit your liking or what you have on hand.  Your protein can be swapped with chicken or eliminated all-together, your beans can be whichever are your favorite, and you can use any seasonal vegetables (or frozen ones) you have on hand.  This usually makes for a lot of leftovers, which I especially loved when I was in the service, since I could take it to work with me.  This is a very rustic and homey meal.

2-3 italian style sausage (chicken, pork, etc)
2 cups of brown rice (or white)
2 cups beef broth
2 cups water
Half of a yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of frozen garden peas
1 can of black beans (or red or kidney) undrained
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup of pumpkin puree (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 packet of sazon goya w/ azafran
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
half of a lime

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, at medium-high heat.  Add sliced sausage to the pot and stir with a wooden spoon.  When you see the sausages has started to render (or release some of its natural fat), add the diced onion and garlic and allow to soften, approximately 5 minutes. 

Add the rice and packet of Sazon Goya and stir, allowing the rice to toast a little.  About 1 minute. 

Next add the tomato paste, pumpkin puree, oregano, and salt and pepper, and stir well.  Now add the beef broth,water, frozen peas, and can of beans, stir again and allow everything to mix well.  At this point I put the lid on my pot leaving it open just ajar.  I leave it on high heat because I want the liquids to boil faster and cook my rice quicker.  Once the rice boils I leave it that way for a good 5-10 minutes, checking it to see if the water has reduced down to the level of the rice. 

Once the water is at the level of the rice, I lower the heat to low, stir in my chopped cilantro, and allow it to finish cooking.  This will take about 30 more minutes, or once the water is completely absorbed and your rice is plump and done (tasting it is the best way to tell!) 

When the rice is done I fluff it with a fork or the same wooden spoon I have been using all along (usually the latter option) and take it off the heat. 

I like to squeeze about half a lime into the rice and stir it before serving, this elevates it a bit and gives it a cleaner and fresher taste.  Results: a very unpretentious, but satisfying, good bowl of rice!  And all your food groups in one bowl- buen provecho!


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Hello after a long weekend!  Tonight was my uncle’s last night with us before returning to Spain.  So of course, we had to have a big dinner to wish him a bon voyage.  But my mom was too tired to cook, and my grandmother had her chemotherapy today and wasn’t feeling up to it, so… Super-Pamela to the rescue!  Haha.. no, I offered mostly because it’s nice to cook when grandma will watch Lucas for me, so I can “just cook”.  I love it, it really is like a therapy to me.  So for tonight, in keeping with our fall theme, we have a Rigatoni with Squash and Prawns.  Well, it’s more like Rigatoni with Squash and Shrimp, since we had regular jumbo shrimp on hand.  This is a recipe I cannot take credit for; it was created by a chef I really love for healthful Italian cuisine, Giada de Laurentiis.  Here is the recipe with a few adjustments:

Rigatoni with Squash and Shrimp

3 tbsp olive oil, plus 3 tbsp
1 pound butternut squash, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 pound rigatoni
1 pound large or jumbo shrimp
3/4 to 1 cup 2% or whole milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan


Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butternut squash, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Saute until the squash is golden and tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash is very soft, another 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer the squash mixture to a blender or food processor and puree. *You can actually add some of your milk at this point, rather than all of it later, if you need some liquid to better puree your squash.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, warm the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook until just pink, about 3 minutes.

In a large pot over low heat combine the cooked pasta, pureed squash mixture, and 3/4 cup milk. Stir to combine. Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk if the sauce needs to be moistened.

Add the cooked shrimp, basil, and cheese. Stir until warm and serve.   Top with a little extra parmesan and basil.

Results:  An incredibly healthy and delicious dish!  The sauce is so creamy, and you actually feel like you’re eating something bad for you, but it’s not!  The combination of the sweet butternut squash with the bite of the pepper in the sauce as well as in the shrimp, along with the saltiness of the parmesan cheese is just delightful!  I doubled my recipe to feed my family of seven plus a toddler.  I got great reviews! 

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