A Perfect Pair: Shrimp and Grits for Josie

Skillet Shrimp and Grits

If you’ve been around these parts long enough you’ll know that I’m truly in love with breakfast.  And truth be told, I love it even more when I’m eating for other meals.  Like those gratin potatoes with spinach, kale, and a runny poached egg?  That was my lunch one day over holiday break.  It was spectacular.  Well this shrimp and grits dish rates right up there.

Lord knows I’m not from the South but my great pal Josie sure is and she knows her grits.  Creamy, cheesy, stick-to-your-ribs sort of good grits.  Add some shrimp to a killer pan of grits and you’ve got a perfect pair.  And speaking of Josie, she’s having herself a perfect pair this week…in the form of twin boys!  Josie and Joey are adding 2 more to their family and I knew this shrimp and grits dish would be an amazing way to help celebrate a little surprise shower a few of us decided to have for her.

Skillet Shrimp and Grits

Josie loves breakfast just as much as I do and she’s all over shrimp and grits.  Being the Yankee that I am, I think this meal really does Southern comfort food justice (especially since I used the stone-ground white cornmeal Josie brought me from Atlanta in October) and I know she would love it as much as Kyle and I did.  Because you’ll bake the grits for a final 15 minutes, they aren’t quite as creamy as I would have liked for them to be but it’s a stellar recipe, nonetheless.  The only thing that could possibly make this shrimp and grits any more awesome would be a poached egg.  Surprised?  I know Josie would agree.

Here’s what the other girls made for Josie:
Annie: Paloma Cocktail (Tequila & Lime)
Courtney: Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream
Elly: Sausage-Cheese Biscuits

Wouldn’t this menu would make for an amazing brunch?!

Tex Mex Sloppy Joes

I feel lucky enough, with my aging and increasingly cluttered brain, to have distinct memories of many nights at the dinner table with my family.  Family dinner (at the kitchen table) was a basic requirement to living in my parents house.  I’m sure my adolescent years were filled with dread about that required family time but today I couldn’t be more thankful for the memories I have about those nights.

On one such night when I was maybe 11 or 12, we had taco salad for the first time.  It was nothing fancy, as tacos don’t need to be – taco meat with all the fixings over crunchy tortilla chips – but it felt like a revolutionary dinner.  Tortilla chips with dinner?! Score!! I don’t remember tacos being in my mom’s rotation previous to that (she may tell you otherwise in the comments here) so this was quite possibly a seminal moment happening.  It was also likely that we didn’t eat much Mexican or Tex Mex food aside from tacos or taco salad after that since it turns out that my mom loathes cilantro.  I died a little inside when I learned that recently.

So these Tex Mex sloppy joes combine an American staple food that epitomized my childhood dinners with my utter love for Tex Mex food today.  Set between two halves of a soft homemade bun with a hefty serving of guacamole, these sloppy joes are a little spicy but totally homey and familiar at the same time.  Get your napkins ready and belly up to the table for this dinner – it’s a favorite we’ll keep coming back to, even if *cough* we eat ours in front of the T.V.

Tex Mex Sloppy Joes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings


    For the sloppy joes:
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 chipotle chile en adobo (or ¼ tsp chipotle powder)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ¼ lbs ground chicken, turkey, or beef
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz beer, such as a light ale or lager
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • For serving:
  • 6 warm hamburger buns (like these jalapeno cheddar buns)
  • Guacamole
  • Sliced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, diced onion, grated cheddar or Monterey jack or crumbled queso fresco (all optional)


  1. Add the tomato sauce, chipotle chile (or powder), oregano, ground cumin, smoked paprika, allspice, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Brown the ground meat in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until browned, about 10 minutes. Drain off the fat. Warm the canola oil in the pan with the browned meat then add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Pour the tomato mixture into the skillet along with the beer, ketchup and cilantro. Stir until well combined.
  3. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat then reduce the heat to medium-low heat and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on warm buns with suggested toppings, if desired.


source: adapted from Homesick Texan

Roasted Vegetable Stuffed Potato

I don’t know about you guys but to me there is nothing I love about leftover vegetables.  In fact, just last night for dinner we had leftover roast chicken with its original sides of roasted potatoes and brussels sprouts…and a side of mac and cheeseSomething needed to make up for the fact that I was eating day-old brussels sprouts.

So that’s where these twice baked roasted veggie stuffed potatoes come in.  I made one for myself for lunch a few weeks ago after Josie posted her recipe and I couldn’t have been more satisfied with the result.  I did actually use up some leftover roasted brussels sprouts and carrots and I also roasted some butternut squash (homegrown!!) while the potatoes (I make a bunch at a time) were baking.

But feel free to switch up the veggies and use up whatever you may have…like whatever you’ve got in the fridge come this Friday.  I’m quite sure leftover broccoli and cheese casserole would have quite the reinvented life in these potatoes.  And if don’t have smoked or aged gouda or Gruyere but you do have a block of sharp cheddar or Swiss or havarti or…whatever… left from your cheese board on Thanksgiving (or rumbling around in the bottom of your cheese drawer), use what you’d like.  It’s an adaptable recipe and however you go about it, I’m sure you’ll love it!


Looking for other Thanksgiving leftover makeover ideas?
Turkey Cranchiladas
Turkey Noodle Soup
Roast Chicken (or Turkey) Soft Tacos with Cilantro Cream
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Pizza
Chicken (or Turkey) and Biscuits Pot Pie


Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

Is it me or is it almost impossible to imagine eating a grilled cheese sandwich without a bowl of tomato soup?  It’s like eating a peanut butter and jelly (strawberry) sandwich on white bread without a glass of chocolate milk on the side.  The failure to complete the meal without the other half just doesn’t make sense to me.  And frankly, it makes me a little sad as well.  How many times have you said, “Man, a bowl of tomato soup would go great with this grilled cheese.”?

This creamless creamy tomato soup solves the soup-less grilled cheese issue in about 20 minutes.  Sure, it takes a little longer to cook than popping open a can but you’ll be thrilled with the results.  What makes the soup thick and creamy without the addition of cream, or any milk product for that matter, is a few slices of bread.  You’ll drop them in the cooking soup then pureé the whole mixture until it is silky smooth, the way a great tomato soup should be.  Paired with a grown-up grilled cheese on a chilly fall day…is there nothing more comforting?

Sweet Corn Cakes with Tomato-Avocado Relish

We’re having a blast in the kitchen this summer, thanks to having such great luck in the garden so far.  Our beefsteak tomato plants really surprised us in actually producing edible fruit as opposed to the rotted, blighted tomatoes we were expecting after the first couple that ripened went bad.  So with these beefsteaks and the insane amount of cherry tomatoes we’ve picked so far, at least 75% of our meals over the last few weeks have included something from our garden.

And that goes for these corn cakes too.  The tomato-avocado relish isn’t just a condiment here – it’s really part of a wholly fabulous (and quick!) meal.  Inside of 30 minutes, we had these fresh sweet corn cakes topped with the refreshing relish on the table – my kind of meal for a weeknight!  The corn toasts and sweetens even further when cooked making the light and fluffy cakes virtually irresistible.  It’s kind of like the awesomeness that grilled corn is but there is frying involved (who’s complaining?). Then they’re piled high with the type of topping that’s good enough to eat with tortilla chips or as a Tex-Mex bruschetta on crunchy bread.  In other words, this is an all-around winner of a meal and if I can get my hands on some more of that local sweet corn, we’ll be having it again soon!

Sweet Corn Cakes with Tomato-Avocado Relish

Yield: 10-12 corn cakes

To keep the finished corn cakes from getting cold while cooking the others, keep them on a wire rack in a 250° F oven. These corn cakes can almost be made a little ahead of time as an appetizer for company - just keep them warm in the oven and serve with the cold tomato-avocado relish. If you're making this dish in the winter, you can use frozen corn - just thaw it in a colander first.


    For the tomato-avocado relish:
  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 scallion or a small handful of chives, minced
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and diced
  • For the corn cakes:
  • 3 large ears of corn, shucked, and the corn cut off (this should yield about 3 cups of corn)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
  • For serving:
  • Ranch dressing (optional but strongly suggested)


  1. To make the relish: Mix all of the ingredients except the avocado together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 2 days. Just before serving, stir in the avocado.
  2. To make the corn cakes: Place the corn kernels in a large bowl. Place 2 cups of the corn kernels in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly pureed but still chunky. Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels. Add the flour, cornmeal, onion, cilantro, baking powder, and baking soda to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and butter, and stir with a fork just to combine - the batter will be lumpy and that's fine.
  3. Place a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add just enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan and heat until sizzling hot. Scoop the batter into the skillet about a 1/3 cup (for main course corn cakes) or a heaping tablespoon (for appetizer-size) at a time, cooking the cakes in batches so that they are not touching while they cook. Fry 3-4 minutes per side (or 1-2 minutes per side for the smaller cakes), until golden brown. These cakes will cook a little like pancakes do so you'll know the insides are cooked through when the top of the cake is slightly firm (not hard or crisp) when gently pressed with your finger. Transfer the cooked cakes to a wire rack and keep them warm in the oven (see note above); repeat with the remaining batter. Serve hot topped with the relish and drizzled with ranch dressing, if desired.


Bacon Pesto Tomato Sandwiches

While it would be perfectly acceptable for me to swoon about how this bacon pesto tomato sandwich is the only way to highlight your gorgeous tomatoes, I really want to talk about bacon here.  It’s not an ingredient that I often highlight in my meals mostly because I feel, unlike most of the food blogging community, that it’s a complementary ingredient – not the star.  However, the thick-sliced applewood-smoked bacon that I used in this sandwich is the star and I built the sandwich around it solely based on the fact that I had a few slices in the fridge that needed to be used up.

And that’s how it goes with me.  I can never seem to use up a package of bacon before freezing it (and gah! sometimes forgetting about it until it’s freezer-burned) or it gets pushed to the back of the fridge and is again, forgotten about (which is even worse!).  So with full intentions and an empty stomach, I fried up the leftover fridge-bacon in my kitchen buddy (the cast iron frying pan), sliced some fresh mozzarella and tomato, and whirled a creamy [nut-free] pesto around in the blender.  And by the time Kyle ambled in the door, absolutely filthy from playing in the yard, I had a killer sandwich ready for him.  I hustled him and his sandwich back out the door (“your shoes!!!”) and joined him for lunch on the porch.

Now you’ve just had a glimpse upon our Sundays in the summer:  Me trying to use up the leftovers in the fridge before we start a new week of meals and lunches…and Kyle, the mudhog, showing up when it’s time to eat.  Typical, easy-going Sundays.

Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries

As expected, our zucchini yield in our garden wasn’t as spectacular as it probably should have been this summer.  I don’t know what it is, but we just don’t have a green thumb when it comes to growing zucchini.  The first year we planted it, we got zero zucchini.  How depressing.  This year, our three seedling plants grew fabulously, flowered like it was there job (it was), and so far we’ve only gotten two zucchini (two more will be ready this week though).  From three plants, I don’t consider that to be a success.

But nonetheless, one of the zucchini we picked got chopped up and made into these baked zucchini fries.  And to be able to eat what we grew and picked from our own yard made for such a satisfying dinner – all of the dread of a low yield just melts away.  These fries are freaking awesome!  A quick run through a basic flour-egg-panko combination then into the oven for 20 or so minutes is all that separates you from zucchini heaven.

Because the fries aren’t actually fried, I feel like you are actually able to taste the zucchini and not just the grease (there is none of here anyway), which is certainly the goal with such fresh ingredients.  They come out of the oven crispy on the outside and tender and not mushy on the inside…and not at all watery, which I was slightly worried about since zucchini is such a watery vegetable.  While the zucchini fries were baking, I whipped up a batch of our favorite ranch dressing in the blender to dip them into – this should be a requirement when making these fries.  I have a few other recipes planned for the rest of the zucchini that we pick but it’s certainly going to take a heckavalot of restraint not to make these fries again this summer!

Roast Chicken Soft Tacos with Cilantro Cream

Our favorite Sunday activity in the fall doesn’t have anything to do with tailgating and pigskins. Instead, it has everything to do with cranking up the oven and slow roasting a plump whole chicken stuffed with herbovacious goodies.

And even though it’s now only early August, I am totally craving cozy sweaters and roast chickens. So lucky for me, our local grocery store sells rotisserie chickens all year-round for just $5 on Fridays. Five bucks! You can’t even buy a whole raw chicken for five bucks and we don’t have to heat up the kitchen for a quick dinner!

Of course with just the two of us in the house, we always have leftover chicken so I’m constantly trying to come up with ways to use up the leftovers. These chicken tacos with cilantro cream are a prime example of a perfect meal made with said leftovers…and actually, I bought the whole roaster with the intention of making two quick recipes (yielding about 4 meals or 8 servings) with it in the first place.

We attacked the first half of the chicken to use for some creamy baked chicken taquitos and the other half got shredded and stuck in the fridge for the next night (i.e., for these tacos). And oh goodness, these tacos!  A quick and fresh cilantro cream dressing that you’ll whip up in the blender lightly coats a bowlful of crunchy red cabbage, scallions, and just enough diced jalapeño to create a little kick. This cilantro-cabbage slaw will sit for just 15 minutes to allow the cabbage to soften just a wee bit and then you’ll add the shredded chicken, mound the mixture in some soft flour tortillas, and dive in.  The crunchy-soft contrasting textures of the thinly sliced red cabbage and the chicken and flour tortillas is really what makes these tacos so crave-worthy (aside from the creamy dressing, of course) and the cabbage has such a mild flavor when eaten raw that I strongly encourage all the skeptics out there to give it a chance.

What about the rest of the chicken, you ask? Well as my mom always says (insert best Forest Gump impression here), waste not want not! I freeze the bones from my roast/rotisserie chickens in a zipper bag until I have a second carcass and then I’ll make chicken stock (another post for another time). So from this one [$5] chicken, we’ve made two full recipes (yielding about 4 meals or 8 servings total) and the carcass will help to produce about 4 quarts of chicken stock in the near future.

It’s an amazing shortcut to be able to use whether you’ve got crazy-busy weeknights happening or it’s just too darn hot to cook. And if you want to pull out all the stops, try roasting your own chicken (autumnal Sundays are not required) – for the 10 minutes it takes to prep a whole chicken and the 1hr 20min (approximately) of downtime while it cooks, there is nothing more satisfying…except when you’re able to throw together amazing meals like this one with just a few leftovers!

Need some other ideas for using up leftover roast chicken?

“This post is part of the BlogHer Leftover Makeovers editorial series. Our advertisers do not produce or review editorial content. This post is made possible by Bank of America and BlogHer.”

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Every so often we come across a recipe that makes it into our rotation on a semi-regular basis.  And even less often than that, it’s a meal that can be prepped in large batches and well ahead of time and then frozen.  These baked creamy chicken taquitos will be your best friends.  I first started making them well over a year ago and one of the things I love most about them is that they are the kind of meal that you can throw almost anything into.  Black beans?  Sure!  Leftover roast or grilled chicken?  Definitely!  Avocado?  Why not!  A lonely unused half of a jalapeño or poblano pepper? Spice it up!  Nubs of various leftover cheeses that have almost no use for anything else?  Cheese is always welcome!

Served with a side of refried or black beans, these taquitos are are truly a favorite around here and I certainly can’t ask for a more versatile and quick meal, especially for a weeknight.  And it’s even better when all I have to do is pull a few ready-made ones from the freezer to pop in the oven!  Oh, and I also think they would make a spectacular appetizer or snack if you use smaller tortillas or even cut out rounds with a cookie or biscuit cutter from larger (burrito-size) tortillas.  Game day anyone?

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 10-12 taquitos

I tend to make a double recipe when I make these taquitos and freeze whatever we don’t plan on eating for dinner that night. You’ll just freeze the uncooked taquitos on a parchment-lined baking sheet until completely frozen (don’t let them touch or they will freeze together) and then transfer them to a plastic zipper bag. When you’re ready to eat them, toss them directly into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the filling starts to ooze out the ends.


  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ – ½ cup salsa
  • 1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp chili powder (we love using ancho chile powder in this recipe)
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 green onions or a handful of fresh chives, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cooked/diced chicken
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, etc. would also be good)
  • 10-12 6-inch flour tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • Kosher salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 425? F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, ¼ cup salsa, lime juice, spices, garlic, cilantro, green onions or chives, chicken, and shredded cheese. Mix everything together until well combined and the cream cheese is evenly distributed throughout the mixture. If the filling seems too dry, add a few extra tablespoons of salsa until it loosens up a little.
  3. Sandwiched between two damp paper towels, briefly heat the tortillas in the microwave to make them soft enough to roll easily, about 20-30 seconds. Place a warmed tortilla on a work surface, keeping the other tortillas covered by the paper towels to avoid drying out. Using a medium-size cookie scoop, line the middle of the tortilla with a heaping scoop (about 2-3 tablespoons) of the filling mixture. Roll the tortilla up tightly around the filling and place it seam-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling, spacing the assembled taquitos evenly on the baking sheet.
  4. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle a very small pinch of kosher salt onto each taquito – don’t skip this as the salt finishes off the taquitos. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Serve with sour cream and salsa, if desired.


source: adapted from Our Best Bites via Annie's Eats

Smashed Avocado-Chile Tartines

I’ve got this thing about weekend lunches.  Kyle’s got this other thing.  I feel they should be quick and easy, not requiring thought or time.  Kyle, it seems, grew up in Europe where lunches are often have more emphasis than dinner.  (He didn’t, by the way.)  For me, a sandwich and some fruit or chips or leftovers from during the week make the perfect weekend lunch.  For Kyle, roast chicken with herbed potatoes and steamed vegetables are ideal.  (Actually, it’s more like hot dogs or burgers on the grill with potato salad and beans.)  And I realize that throwing a few dogs on the grill is not complicated by any standard but I grew up with the mindset that the kitchen is closed for lunch on the weekend – make yourself a sandwich or starve…and I’m ok with that.

But I made an exception on the 4th of July – it was a holiday, what can I say?  These avocado-chile tartines were just as easy as making a sandwich…and let’s face it, tartines are the European version of sandwiches so I’m still moving with the same train of thought here.  Basically, I steeped some garlic and chile flakes in olive oil, grilled some bread, and smashed up some avocado.  That’s it.  And now I can add an avocado tree to my list of must-grow fruit trees (do they even grow in the northeast?) because between guacamole and these tartines, I could seriously go broke on avocados.  Rich, buttery, creamy smashed avocado with a hint of heat on crispy, crunchy grilled bread – the perfect light weekend/day-off lunch.

**Note** – When writing the original recipe, I forgot to include the lime juice; the recipe below has been adjusted to include this.

Smashed Avocado-Chile Tartines

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3-4 lunch servings

These tartines would make an excellent and quick weeknight dinner served with a side salad or fabulous appetizers for a party – just grill or toast up small rounds of French bread instead of ciabatta. For our tartines, I used sesame semolina (a crusty Italian bread) but if you can’t find it, ciabatta bread will work too. There will be some leftover chile-oil – it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks and can be brought to room temperature to be used in other recipes (like brushing onto pizza dough before building a pizza).


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper chile flakes plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed (skins removed)
  • ½ loaf ciabatta or other crusty Italian bread, sliced on the bias (diagonally to maximize surface area), about ½-inch thick
  • 2 ripe avocado, pitted, removed from skin, and cubed
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pre-heat grill to medium-high heat (about 400° F).
  2. In a small saute pan, heat the oil, chile flakes, and garlic over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the chile flakes and garlic start sizzling. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes – do not let the garlic burn. Remove from the heat and pour the oil through a mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Discard the garlic and chile flakes and set the oil aside for 5 minutes.
  3. Brush both sides of the bread slices lightly with the oil. Grill both sides of the bread until they are lightly browned and toasted around the edges – this takes about 3 minutes per side.
  4. While the bread grills, in a medium bowl, smash the avocado with, lime juice, about ¼ tsp salt and a sprinkle of pepper with a fork, leaving some larger chunks, if desired. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the chile-oil.
  5. Divide the smashed avocado between the grilled bread slices, drizzle with a little extra chile-oil and sprinkle the tops with extra chile flakes before serving. Serve the avocado at room temperature while the bread is still warm from the grill.


source: inspired by Bon Appetit Magazine, July 2012

Take Out Fake Out: Shrimp Lo Mein

take out fake out shrimp lo mein

It’s no surprise to me that when we tried this recipe for the first time about 6 months ago, we loved everything about it…well, except the noodles.  I had been searching for probably a year and half for real lo mein noodles for this recipe and finally just bit the bullet and made the recipe with spaghetti.  It just wasn’t right, people.  Thin spaghetti may have worked better but I wasn’t going to chance it.

So when I was perusing Whole Foods with Josie, Courtney, and Annie back in February while stocking up to cook dinner that night, Annie found lo mein noodles for me.  I had searched high and low (no pun intended) in my Whole Foods and local grocery stores to no avail.  I snagged the package and now I wished I had grabbed a few extra because I still can’t find them here!

take out fake out shrimp lo mein

Noodles issue aside, this shrimp lo mein was a perfect departure from heavy and oftentimes greasy Chinese take out lo mein.  The flavors perfectly mimic what we know take out lo mein to be but there’s just something about controlling all of the ingredients of a dish that make it so satisfying.  We went with a vegetarian version, swapping out the original chicken broth and chicken breast for vegetable broth and shrimp, respectively, and I love the fact that the list of vegetables in the recipe is versatile enough to use up whatever you have hanging around in the fridge.  After some minimal prep work, the whole recipe comes together rather quickly, so make sure you’ve got everything washed, chopped, and ready to go before you start.  I saved the other half of the package of noodles for a “rainy day” which may come sooner rather than later because now I’m craving these noodles again!

Light Meals for Hot Nights

I don’t know about you guys but I hate cooking when it’s 90+ degrees.  And I realize that if I lived in Texas, I’d have serious issues but let’s face it, somebody has to get dinner on the table.  So when it’s hotter than heck outside, it might as well be an easy meal even if the A/C is blasting all summer long (like in our wussie house)  Here a few of our favorites:

[Photos listed Left to Right, Top to Bottom]

  1. Watermelon Feta Mixed Greens Salad
  2. Greek Grilled Chicken
  3. Tabbouleh
  4. Grilled Spice-Rubbed Shrimp Nicoise Salad
  5. Chipotle & Honey Glazed Grilled Chicken
  6. Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
  7. Greek Panzanella
  8. Bruschetta with Sweet Red Peppers and Gorgonzola
  9. Spicy Bean Burritos
Spicy Turkey Meatball Parm Subs

spicy turkey meatball parm subs

OK, so I confused myself when typing out the title of this post.  Here in CT, we call these types of sandwiches grinders…but how many of you have actually heard that before?  I grew up calling them subs or heroes – the “grinder” completely baffled me when I went to college in New Haven so many years ago.  I know some of you guys call them hoagies too and there are probably a few other names that I’ve never before as well.

spicy turkey meatball parm subs

But the name is neither here nor there.  What really matters here is what’s on the inside: spicy turkey meatballs smothered in tomato-basil marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese.  After a 5 hour drive back from northern Vermont today, this was the best dinner I could have asked for and when Kyle reminded what we were having tonight early on in my trip, it was almost all I could think about the rest of the way.  We always keep a bag of homemade meatballs in the freezer for quick dinners like this one and within 20 minutes of emptying the car of my bags and goodies, this outstanding dinner was on the table (coffee) and I had my feet up.  What an awesome way to end a great weekend!

Spicy Turkey Meatball Parm Subs

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 sandwiches


  • 8 spicy turkey meatballs (about 1 ½" in diameter)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 4 6-inch sub, grinder, hero, or hoagie rolls
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼ -inch thick


  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. In a medium sauce pan, heat the meatballs and sauce over medium-low heat until the meatballs are heated through, about 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the sauce and slice each in half.
  2. Slice rolls horizontally almost all the way through the roll, taking care not the split the back edge. Divide the sliced meatballs between all of the rolls. Top with sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese. Place the subs, with the cheese facing up, on a baking sheet - you can line it with parchment or aluminum foil for easy clean-up if you'd like.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cheese is completely melted and starting to lightly brown on the tops and edges. Allow the subs to cool for a few minutes before serving - they will be hot!


Smells Like Home original

BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

These bbq pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches are a phenomenal way to use up leftover pulled pork!

I love lazy weekends where anything is possible.  Breakfast at the diner? OK.  Fussing in the garden?  I’ll take it.  A whirl around the gym?  Only because I have to.  Making grilled cheese for lunch?  You betcha!  (Hence the time at the gym.)  These bbq pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches were a creation I had been dreaming of since the pork shoulder went in the oven a few weeks ago.  I had also planned on making taquitos with the leftovers but sadly, the leftovers never made it that far.  Anyway, perfectly buttered and toasted white bread hold together this magnificent sandwich combination.  The Monterey Jack melts into the pulled pork just as it should, leaving you with sandwiches that you’ll wish there were more of (though one certainly was plenty for lunch for us).  I decided to toast all of the bread slices independently and to cover the pan to allow the cheese to melt before combining the halves because all too often, when grilled cheese sandwiches have a lot going on inside, the cheese doesn’t melt completely.  Problem solved.  And?  The perfect weekend lunch.

BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 sandwiches

As with most grilled cheese sandwiches, the bread you use makes all the difference. Because these sandwiches have the tendency to be on the messy side, choose a hearty white bread that can stand up to the awesomeness within; thick-sliced country white or homemade white bread are excellent choices. I didn’t think of this when making these sandwiches, but if you love red onion like we do, thinly sliced onions would be an excellent addition to this sandwich, as would sliced pickled jalapenos if you’re looking for a little extra bite.


  • 4 slices white bread (see header)
  • Salted butter, softened to almost melted
  • 1 ½ cups bbq pulled pork, warmed
  • 4 oz Monterey Jack or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of all of the bread and place the butter side down in the skillet. Divide the cheese between all of the slices and top the cheese on just of the two slices with the pulled pork.
  2. Cover the pan with a lid or sheet of aluminum foil for about 3 minutes; this will ensure heat melts the cheese and heats the pork through. Remove the lid (or foil) and check the undersides of the bread with a spatula. If all of the slices are lightly browned, flip the slices with the cheese onto the pulled pork so the cheese and pork can meld together. After 30 seconds to 1 minute, flip the sandwiches to finish off the other sides. When both sides of the sandwiches are perfectly browned (you know what that looks like) and the cheese is fully melted, remove them from the pan, cut, and serve hot and gooey.


source: Smells Like Home original

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Broccoli, and Feta

This quinoa salad with roasted tomatoes, broccoli, and feta is light and healthy meal that can be served either warm or cold and would make a great addition to any party menu.

There are only a few nights during the year that I have the house to myself.  Very rarely Kyle will work an overnight shift or he’ll have some side work to do but I can always count on his continuing ed classes each year to give me the house to myself.  I don’t know what it is about having the house to myself in the evening especially since I spend almost every Saturday alone while he works but there’s something I love about having the freedom to cook what I want, when I want, without having to think about anyone else but myself.

And that’s how this quinoa salad happened.  I wasn’t 100% sure what Kyle would think of quinoa, never having eaten it before, so I made it for myself with plenty of leftovers in case he was hungry and adventurous when he got home that night last week.  As it turns out, I should have more faith in that man because he loved it as much as I did.  I let the oven do most of the work, roasting the tomatoes and broccoli as the quinoa simmered away, and threw in some feta and lemon juice as it all came together.  I really need to make it a point to roast tomatoes more often because they’re just plain awesome, especially when paired with feta.  This salad is light and healthy and it can be served either warm or cold (I prefer it warm).  I can see us making this quite a bit this summer and perhaps toting it along with us to various bbqs as an alternative to the heavier traditional salads usually served.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Broccoli, and Feta

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, stems removed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 small head broccoli (about 1 ½ cups), flowers only cut small
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with the thyme, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the honey. Roast for 40 minutes then add the broccoli to the baking sheet and drizzle the remaining olive oil, tossing to combine with the tomatoes. Roast for an additional 20 minutes.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the quinoa, vegetable broth, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to a boil; reduce to a simmer, stir once, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes until the water has absorbed. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and cool until the vegetables have finished roasting.
  3. Stir the vegetables, feta, and lemon juice into the quinoa. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, cool, or at room temperature.


source: adapted from Dinner: A Love Story