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Easy Honey-Thyme Whipped Butternut Squash

Easy Honey-Thyme Whipped Butternut Squash

Can you feel the chill in the air?  What about the crisp morning freshness of an overnight frost or the crackle of leaves under your cute new walking boots?  As we cozy up in warm sweaters and put on Sunday football (So far, my team […]

Harvest Stuffed Acorn Squash

Harvest Stuffed Acorn Squash

Shhhhh….Can you keep a secret? I have a girlfriend confession here… Ready!!! I have a huge crush on…wait for it…SQUASH. These gourds have got this girl spinning! Could it be love??? I mean, I think about their incredible taste and versatility all the time!!! The […]

Bacon and Blue Sweet Potato Salad

Bacon and Blue Sweet Potato Salad

Oh, the dog days of summer…they are here, whether we want to accept it or not. (Personally, you have to drag me kicking and screaming into fall. I know what comes next.) The kids are back in school. The nights are getting cooler and very soon (GASP!!!) pools across New England will be closing. I’m soooo not ready to retire my flip flops to the back of the closet and dig out my sweaters and boots. I treasure the sunshine and warmth of summer, but at this time every year it becomes extra special to me. Those last few summer picnics before it becomes hoodie and bonfire season are like the closing act of a play, a way to lock in the memories of a summer well spent.

One of my favorite parts of a good summer picnic is the sides – baked beans, fruit salad, pasta salad and potato salad. Although I love the classic versions that we all grew up with, as a foodie, I’m so incredibly excited to see (and taste!) the next generation of these delectable dishes. We are getting so creative – I love it!!! We are forging ahead to leave our mark on this evolution of picnic sides. OK…maybe it’s not that intense and I may need to reel my excitement back in or I’ll be considered too nutty to actually be invited to any future picnics.

Like any summer, we’ve had our share of graduation parties this year. We love to share in these types of celebrations, especially for family. So, when we were recently invited to a picnic to celebrate hubby’s cousin’s high school graduation, of course I asked if I could bring something. Drum roll please…A POTATO SALAD. Now if you know me or more importantly the family that I married into, potato salad is not my specialty. It’s not in my repertoire because hubby’s mom is 100% Irish. She jokes that she was born with a potato in her mouth. Her traditional potato salad is the BOMB!!! You do not mess with her recipe! Enter the moment of freak out, how was I going to bring a potato salad to an event with a ton of Irish family. Once I could catch my breath and I poured myself a glass of wine (or two), clearer heads started to prevail and I decided to just do me. What foods do I do good? What flavor combinations do I love? How do I get bacon into this baby? So my friends, this is the answer to my soul searching journey (and it was a huge hit at the party). Enjoy every mouth watering bite!

8-9 large sweet potatoes, rinsed but leave the skin on
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
6oz. crumbled blue cheese, divided
3/4 lb cooked bacon, crumbled
1 medium red onion
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic paste or minced garlic
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 scallions, diced

Place sweet potatoes in a large stock pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until you can easily stab them with a fork, but do not over cook. You do not want the potatoes to be mushy. Drain the potatoes and refrigerate them so they cool down.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. Cut the onion into 3/4 inch slices. Brush the onion with a little olive oil and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and roughly chop the onion into bite-sized pieces.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, we can bring this all together. The skin on the potato should peel off pretty easily. After this is done, cut the potatoes into bite-sized cubes. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, 4 oz of the blue cheese, bacon and grilled onion.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, honey, salt and pepper. Dress the salad, folding everything together gently, so our potatoes don’t break down too much. Garnish with the remaining blue cheese and the scallions. Serve at room temperature or chill if desired.

#potatosalad #glutenfree #sweetpotatoes #picnicdishes #summertime #summereats #sweetpotatosalad

Incredibly Yummy Red Sangria

Incredibly Yummy Red Sangria

You’re probably thinking, this girl has got some nerve to brag about a chilled wine with fruit. BRAG I WILL!!! This is another one of my all-time favorite summer entertaining recipes. (Actually, it’s enjoyed by all EVERY SEASON.) This delicious drink goes way back for […]

Tuscan Pasta Salad

Tuscan Pasta Salad

There is no doubt that pasta salad is a summer staple.  You can’t go to a picnic, barbecue or summer shindig without finding some sort of noodle concoction. It’s like getting a hot dog at a baseball game…it’s just going to happen. So it’s safe […]

Smoky Mexican Grilled Chicken with Summer Veggie & Black Bean Hash

Smoky Mexican Grilled Chicken with Summer Veggie & Black Bean Hash

It’s finally summer here in New England!!! I’m sure I can speak collectively for all cold weather folks – We LIVE for warm weather months (especially if you aren’t a skier, as I am certainly not). Yes, it’s relaxing when we are snowed in on a sleepy Saturday…sipping wine while we read a good book and enjoying the smell of a pot of my family’s marinara-meat sauce simmering on the stove (check in for that recipe soon – you don’t want to miss my take on my AMAZING Grandmother’s recipe).

But if it was up to me, it would be summer EVERY DAY. The long sunny days, the warm nights spent with loved ones…PERFECTION! Yes, I’m obsessed with sunshine and good times. Celebrate your summertime with this recipe that brings the fresh flavors of succulent chicken and Mexican seasoned veggies and beans in an easy, healthy way.

I LOVE Mexican food and I’m always trying to find a way to add this culture’s flavors to my plate, but let’s face it…Tex-Mex cuisine is full of fat and calories. My obsession for delicious food is trumped by only one thing, my desire to feel good and fit into my cloths. (OK, that’s two things, but who’s counting.)

Satisfy your foodie cravings here with no guilt. I promise, you will not be disappointed! This dish is bursting with delicious flavors; garden fresh veggies, smoky grilled chicken and the tangy sweetness of the grilled pineapple. Sure, you can make this meal without the grilled pineapple, but you’ll be missing a tropical flare that reminds your taste buds that it’s finally SUMMER!!!

This is the perfect summer meal to kick off your weekend – picture it…dinner outside on Friday evening with friends, enjoying a margarita while laughing and reminiscing. So let’s get started!

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup low-fat mayonaisse
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp lime juice
4 cloves garlic, minced (and divided)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp adobo seasoning
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 red onion, minced
2 yellow squash, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 zucchini squash, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large ripe tomato, roughly chopped
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 Tbsp taco seasoning mix (let’s take a short-cut here – you deserve it!)
1 ripe pineapple, cut off stalk and bottom, quarter and slice
Avacado slices, optional
Chopped cilantro, optional
Sour cream or additional non-fat Greek yogurt, optional
Salsa, optional

Let’s prep the chicken and it’s creamy marinade first. I like to give the chicken time to hang out and soak up flavor. Rinse each chicken breast and set aside on a large plate or platter. One at a time, place each chicken breast into a gallon-sized storage baggie and pound with the flat side of a kitchen mallet. You want each chicken breast to be about 3/4 of an inch thick. (Please see my recipe for Sriracha-Lime Grilled Chicken for detailed instructions on prepping chicken breasts and why this step is SO important.)  In a small bowl, combine mayo, greek yogurt, lime juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, parsley, cumin, red pepper flakes and adobo seasoning. Coat both sides of chicken breasts with marinade sauce. To make my life easier, I threw the chicken and marinade sauce in a large bowl and tossed to coat well. Cover, refrigerate and let rest for at least 2 hours.

Preheat grill to medium heat. At this point the chicken has had enough time to party in it’s creamy, smoky marinade. Grill the chicken for 5 minutes on one side, brush with the marinade and gently flip each chicken breast to cook the other side for another 5 minutes or until cooked through.

While you are cooking the chicken, grill the pineapple for 2-3 minutes each side. You want to warm the pineapple and get some nice grill marks on it. This seems like nothing, but something amazing happens with you grill fruit – the flavor and the sugars deepen and become more intense. YUM!

Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, heat canola oil over med-high heat. Saute red onion for 3-4 minutes. Add remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic, yellow squash and zucchini squash to pan and cook for another 3 minutes or until squash is starting soften. Reduce heat to low and add tomato, black beans and taco seasoning. Cook for another 3-5 minutes to warm beans and tomatoes, stirring to incorporate the flavors of taco seasoning.

Now you’re ready to eat! Serve immediately as pictured and garnish with my suggestions or your own ideas. Hey, it’s your kitchen – add what makes you happy!

#mexicanfood #healthymexicanfood #chicken #grilledchicken #summerentertaining #glutenfree #glutenfreedinners #freshfood #healthydinners #dietrecipes

Parmesan Crusted Cod over Spinach Saute with Red Pepper Sauce

Parmesan Crusted Cod over Spinach Saute with Red Pepper Sauce

Feast your eyes People!  One of my favorite parts of this healthy dinner is the gorgeous mix of colors.  The creamy white of the cod fish, the deep green of the wholesome spinach and the succulent red of the roasted red pepper sauce that finishes […]

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Mascarpone Creme

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Mascarpone Creme

If you like appetizer stuffed mushrooms, you’re going to LOVE this main-dish version. Earthy, meaty portobello mushrooms are filled with a savory chicken sausage stuffing and finished with delectable mascarpone cheese. This is one of my favorite “at home date-night” dishes. Easy to put together, […]

Loaded Caprese Panini

Loaded Caprese Panini

I’m so, so proud of this recipe. Doesn’t it look delicious!!! I can brag about this one shamelessly because… it’s not my creation. I’m so very EXCITED to introduce you to a feature of “mFd” that is a project so close to my heart. “Lil Chef Recipes”  I’m a mom of two incredible boys who LOVE to eat! (Literally, someone is ALWAYS eating in my house.) They also love to get busy in the kitchen. After over a decade of trying to “manage” this (think eggs broken on the floor, me tripping over kitchen stools as I grab a burning pan off the stove and more recently, the critiquing of my flavors, seasonings and ingredients – yeah that’s real people!)  I’ve decided to give in and use this ambition to my benefit. So, without further ado, this is the first addition of “LIL CHEF RECIPES”

We all love a basic Caprese salad and we also love the melty goodness of a panini. Why not combine the two with a kick!  This hearty dinner panini can be on the table in 20 minutes. Lil Chef has amazing ideas about cooking and flavor, so here goes… we are going to swap out the fresh basil for a simple pesto mayonnaise and add protein and savory Italian spice by incorporating hot capicola. I promise, this is one of the best panini’s you’ll ever eat!

6 Tbsp prepared pesto sauce
3 Tbsp low fat mayonnaise
4 Ciabatta rolls, sliced sandwich style
3 vine ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (width of slice, about 1/4 inch)
1/2 lb deli-sliced capicola
2 Tbsp butter or non-stick cooking spray
Marinara sauce, for dipping

Mix the pesto sauce and mayo in a small bowl and set aside.  Lil Chef and I found it easiest to prep the remaining ingredients and lay out in an assembly line.

For panini’s, you need a good grill pan (not trying to get all fancy on you, but it’s a necessity!) I was born into a foodie family and I married into a foodie family. So, needless to say, many of the anniversaries that my hubby and I have celebrated (our families are HUGE into celebrating these milestones, and rightfully so!!!) have been commemorated by a gift that involves food. One such gift is this amazing grill pan.

Heat the grill pan to med-high heat.  You will need to grease the pan.  I used the butter because I wanted that beautiful golden-colored crust, but you can also use non-stick cooking cooking spray.

Assemble the sandwiches – Spread the pesto mayo on both pieces of each ciabatta roll. Layer with the capicola, fresh mozzarella and tomato.

Gently place on the grill pan.  Do not try to crowd your beautiful sandwiches.  For color and that perfect melty mozzarella goodness, they need a little space.  Lil Chef and I cooked two sandwiches at a time on my grill pan.   Cover the paninis with a grill pan press (or another heavy pan) to smoosh all the yummy goodness together.  Cook for 7-10 minutes or until the cheese starts to melt and you have some good golden color on the bottom side of the paninis.  Lift off grill pan press and gently flip your paninis.  Cook on that side, with the grill pan press on for another 5-6 minutes or until you can’t take it any longer and you just need a bite.

Serve immediately with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.

Makes 4 servings.

#paninirecipes #caprese #hotsandwiches #lilchefrecipes #cookingwithkids #easydinners #dinnerpanini

Paleo Sriracha-Lime Grilled Chicken

Paleo Sriracha-Lime Grilled Chicken

WOW!!! Grilled Chicken, move out of my way…Said no one EVER! Grilled chicken has been a dieter’s staple for decades. It’s the quintessential healthy food; right up there next to salad, rice cakes and cottage cheese. It’s not a dish that excites the senses. Plus, […]