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Kid Friendly Dinners

Marinated Thai Beef Salad gets a burst of flavor from authentic Thai flavors, sweet fruit and crunchy veggies. A summer dinner everyone will love.

Thai Beef Salad

By | Beef, Easy Dinners, Grilling + BBQ, Healthy + Diet, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, Meat + Poultry, Salads, Spring, Summertime Favorites, Uncategorized, Vegetables | No Comments

This post on Thai Beef Salad includes affiliate links. See my disclosure agreement for more information.

Marinated flank steak gets a burst of flavor from authentic Thai flavors, sweet fruit and crunchy veggies. Arrange on a platter for an impressive, family-style situation that everyone will love.

 

Summer dinners are tricky. You want them to be filling, but light at the same time. This composed Thai beef salad hits both spot on. Plus I love composed salad (salads arranged on a platter) because they’re inviting and served family-style. No fussiness with individually portioned plates.

Thai Beef SaladI marinated flank steak in garlic, ginger and lime juice to really give it some juicy appeal. I’ve called for cooking it in the broiler (it only cooks a few minutes, so the oven isn’t on long), but you can throw it on the grill as well. You do you.

The tender butter lettuce, sweet pineapple, tangy tomatoes and crunchy beans and cucumbers are the perfect salad combo to go with steak. Light and flavorful so nothing is overpowered.

The authentic dressing for the Thai beef salad is a blend of flavors including fish sauce (or nuoc nam). Thai and Vietnamese cooking use it abundantly, and I find a little goes a long way; but it’s imperative to authentic flavor. There’s nothing like it. It has depth

Thai Beef SaladA cool trick I learned the other day about blanching beans: You can actually freeze fresh beans and when you’re ready to use them, pull them out, let them thaw and voila, blanched beans! Here’s the deal––freezing vegetables expands the liquid they naturally hold inside. The cell walls break down from the liquid expanding and freezing (very similar to what happens when veggies are cooked…the cell walls break down and the veggies soften), and the frozen veggies, when thawed are slightly more tender than when they were fresh.

This is the perfect trick to try on this salad! So if you’ve bought more beans than you can eat at Costco (often my issue), then just freeze them! Next time a recipe calls for blanching them, ignore it! Thaw those babies and you’re done. Tender, cold, crunchy beans at the ready.

Thai Steak Salad platedSummer is the perfect time for fresh veggies and tender grilled meats. Other ideas for tasty summer foods that your family and guests might enjoy are my Mini Greek Pita patties with Greek Yogurt Sauce and my mom’s all-time favorite sandwich Sweet and Spicy Bacon Chicken Sandwich.

This colorful salad has cherry tomatoes, pineapple, cucumber, green onions, lettuce, beens and sliced streak to make Thai Beef Salad by Tara Teaspoon.

Thai Beef Salad

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

Calories per serving: 275

Fat per serving: 13.5

Thai Beef Salad

Arrange everything on a pretty platter for a stunning presentation.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 tsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 2-lb flank steak
  • ½ lb green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1½ tsp fish sauce (nuoc nam)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 head (4 cups) Bibb or Boston lettuce
  • ¼ of a pineapple sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup (5 oz) cherry tomatoes halved
  • ⅓ of a seedless cucumber, sliced
  • ¼ cup sliced scallions

Instructions

  1. Stir together garlic, ginger, 3 tbsp lime juice, pepper flakes, 2 tsp sugar and salt. Pour over steak in an ovenproof dish, coating both sides. Marinate in refrigerator 20 min.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 min; immediately submerge in a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain and set aside.
  3. For the dressing, whisk together 5 tbsp lime juice, soy sauce, 2 tsp sugar, fish sauce and oil. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  4. Heat broiler to high. Broil steak 6 inches from heat, turning once, 5 min per side. Remove from oven and let rest 5 min.
  5. Arrange lettuce leaves on a large platter with green beans, pineapple, tomatoes, cucumber and scallions. Slice steak across the grain and place on platter. Serve with dressing on the side.
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Recipe by Tara Bench & Vanessa Seder
Originally published in LHJ April 2009
Photography Miki Duisterhof
Food Styling Jee Levin
Prop Stylist Pamela Duncan Silver

Alfredo Veggie Stromboli

By | Easy Dinners, Entertaining, Kid Friendly Dinners, Kids, Main Dish, One Dish Meals, Party Foods, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Vegetarian | No Comments

Alfredo Veggie Stromboli made with grab-and-go grocery store staples is easy to put together, and even easier to eat for dinner – Delicious!

Frozen pizza dough is a miracle. I love it so much. I typically keep it around for “leftover night” dinner. I roll it out, add some sauce, pesto or something else, top it with chopped up whatever-is-in-the-fridge and cover it with cheese. It’s one of my freezer staples.

I decided to mix it up and make stromboli. It’s like pizza-stuffed bread! Your entire dinner is wrapped up in dough and baked to perfection. I loaded it with veggies for a meatless meal and used a seasoned cream cheese instead of sauce.

Alfredo Veggie Stromboli

Prepping all the veggies can take some time, so I streamlined the process and bought pre-sliced mushrooms, already shredded cheese and canned artichokes so I didn’t have to thaw them. My favorite, frozen pizza dough, makes dinner come together in only a few minutes. Leave it in the oven for a while and serve. Everyone is happy.

Alfredo Veggie Stromboli

The recipe makes two stromboli, so half it if you aren’t serving a crowd. It disappears pretty fast though, so you may want the full recipe. Alfredo Veggie Stromboli for the win!

Alfredo Veggie Stromboli

I love the tangy flavor from the sun-dried tomatoes and the herby cream cheese. The cream cheese mixed with melty shredded cheese makes the most perfect alfredo sauce once baked together in the oven.

I used canned artichokes because they are processed with water. The jarred type is marinated in oil and seasoning and I find them too salty and overpowering.

Alfredo Veggie Stromboli 4

Alfredo Veggie Stromboli

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Calories per serving: 500

Fat per serving: 17.5 g

Alfredo Veggie Stromboli

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 8-oz container sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup canned or frozen, thawed, artichoke hearts
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 7-oz pkg (1¾ cups) low-sodium shredded mozzarella
  • 1 2-lb pkg frozen pizza dough, thawed
  • Flour for work surface
  • ½ cup (5 oz) Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until golden, 6 to 8 mi; remove from heat. Pat artichoke hearts dry with paper towels and coarsely chop. Combine mushrooms, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and shredded cheese; set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 400°F with rack in the upper third. Working with half the dough at a time, roll into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Mix together the cream cheese and Italian seasoning. Spread half the cream cheese mixture on dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with half the mushroom mixture.
  3. Fold dough over filling and pinch to seal the seam and ends. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with remaining dough and ingredients. Cut a few deep vents in the top of each roll and bake for 30 min; tent loosely with foil, then bake until cooked through, 10 min more.
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Get everyone to the table in a flash with more easy dinners like my Shriveled Ogre Nose Pizza. It uses frozen pizza dough too, and is topped with roasted veggies and ricotta. Whip up Corn Chorizo Tacos in a flash for a Mexican-inspired night. Happy cooking!

 

Recipe by Tara Bench
Photography by Antonis Achilleos
Food Styling by Paul Grimes
Prom Styling by Paige Hicks
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal May 2011

Crunchy Chicken Noodle Salad

By | 4th of July, Buffets, Chicken, Easy Dinners, Entertaining, Holidays + Seasons, Kid Friendly Dinners, Kids, Main Dish, Meat + Poultry, Mother's Day, One Dish Meals, Party Foods, Pasta, Picnics, Salads, Spring, Summertime Favorites, Uncategorized | No Comments

Crunchy Chicken Noodle Salad with juicy oranges, radishes and snow peas makes eating salad your new favorite thing!

By adding some crunchy ramen noodles to this Asian-inspired salad, you get a more filling, fun meal. There are a few recipes for ramen noodle salads out there, using different dressings and flavors. I love fresh veggies and cabbage with sesame dressings. That Asian flavor isn’t overpowering like an Italian vinaigrette, and I usually have the ingredients for it in my pantry. I used my Ginger Sesame Dressing on this version.

Crunchy Chicken Noodle Salad

I saved us all about ten steps by calling for coleslaw mix! You’re welcome. This Crunchy Chicken Noodle Salad comes together in a flash with pantry staples like ramen and salad mix. I added chopped cashews for extra yum.

Crunchy Chicken Noodle SaladI call for letting the salad rest in the fridge for a bit. This allows the dressing to soften the noodles a little. They are just a little too crunchy without resting. I used a mandolin to slice my radishes so thin. You can just slice with a knife if you like, or even just cut them into slivers.

To cut the orange I supremed it. That means I cut the fruit away from the membrane. Simply cut the rind off of the entire orange and cut on either side of each slice of orange, slipping it right out. I then just cut the slices into bite-sized pieces.

Crunchy Chicken Noodle Salad

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Calories per serving: 410

Fat per serving: 17.5 g

Crunchy Chicken Noodle Salad

You can substitute a can of mandarin oranges for the orange and try any kind of nut in place of cashews.

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg ramen noodles (discard flavor packet)
  • 1½ cups diced cooked chicken
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled and diced
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 5 oz (1 cup) snow peas, chopped
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped unsalted cashews
  • 1 16-oz pkg coleslaw mix
  • ¾ cup sesame ginger dressing Ginger Sesame Dressing

Instructions

  1. Break uncooked ramen into small pieces in a large bowl. Combine with chicken, radishes, orange, scallion, snow peas, cashews and coleslaw.
  2. Toss salad with dressing, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 25 min or up to 1 hr. Noodles will get softer the longer they sit.
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Right now I’m on a salad diet! I went on a trip and ate too too much! So…salad for me. But I have lots of great recipes, so if you’re in the same boat, or just love fresh dinners for summer, try The New Wedge Salad, with iceberg lettuce, beets, pancetta, hazelnuts and of course blue cheese. Chicken and Rice Lettuce Wraps are kind of a salad you can eat in your hand! I made a flavorful rice salad and you wrap your own portion in soft butter lettuce leaves. Enjoy!

Recipe by Tara Bench
Photography by Antonis Achilleos
Food Styling by Paul Grimes
Prom Styling by Paige Hicks
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal May 2011

The kids will have a ball creating their own Meatball Funny Face Snacks with dips, olive and cheese. And who says I can't get in on the fun!?

Meatball Funny Face Snacks

By | Appetizers + Nibbles, Back To School, Beef, Easy Dinners, Kid Friendly Dinners, Kids, Main Dish, Meat + Poultry, Snacks | No Comments

The kids will have a ball creating their own Meatball Funny Face Snacks with dips, olives and cheese. And who says I can’t get in on the fun!?

 

What face will the kids have when they walk in that door today? Let them express themselves with food! Meatballs that is. Just heat them right out of the freezer and have dips, olives, string cheese and American cheese slices at the ready for creating these fun faces, before digging in.

Meatball Funny Face Snacks

No recipe needed with these snacks. They’re so easy. They aren’t just for after school either; let the kids get creative at birthday parties or sleepovers. It’s a fun way to serve a filling protein to little bellies.

Meatball Funny Face Snacks

Meatballs are great with marinara, pesto and other dips too, so don’t hold back and make a funny face with whatever you’ve got. Serve these with toothpicks so little hands can feed themselves. Get more fast and easy snack hacks and dinner ideas at FarmRich.com.

Farm Rich

Looking for kid-friendly food you can make and enjoy too? Try my Squashed Brownies, packed with healthy squash but rich in chocolate fudginess! Or Mini Greek Pita Patties with Greek Yogurt Sauce. Everyone gets their own mini slider and it’s the perfect size for little hands.

Creative idea and photography by Susan Vajaranant at TaraTeaspoon.com
Courtesy of FarmRich.com

This post may include affiliate links or sponsored content. For more information please see my disclosure agreement.

 

 

Nachos For A Party Crowd

By | 4th of July, Appetizers + Nibbles, Easy Dinners, Entertaining, Fall, Father's Day, Holidays + Seasons, Kid Friendly Dinners, Kids, Main Dish, Party Foods, Snacks, Summertime Favorites | One Comment
More days than not there are nachos in my house. For parties, game days (read Super Bowl), movie night and the like I need a lot of nachos! Layer your fixings and bake them in the oven for Nachos For A Crowd.

When I entertain at home I take a step away from the brain-work of major creativity (I cook for a living) and stick to things that are easy, crowd-pleasing and fun. For the Super Bowl, I’m making nachos with all the fixings. Along with some drinks and my chocolate chip cookies, I’m going to be totally set. See this recipe on KSL.com where it was originally published.

Nachos For A Party Crowd

I make my Nachos For A Crowd in the oven. No melting cheese sauces and cleaning up drippy messes and no heating small batches of chips and cheese in the microwave. Depending on the party I’m having, I’ll add beans or shredded meat, and I have sour cream, salsas and guacamole in bowls for people to add to their plates.

Make nachos for everyone all at once by cooking them on a baking sheet. I line it with foil (for easy cleanup), and layer the goodness of chips, cheese and other tasty additions, then bake for about 10 minutes.

Making Nachos

The cheese is key, and I like a variety. Mixing cheeses gives depth of flavor and texture. Some cheese melts silky smooth, some get a bit chewy and others are crumbly and salty delicious like Cotija.

My favorite is a Monterey Jack of course, and then you have his brother Pepper Jack to add spice. A little mild or sharp cheddar adds classic flavor and even pieces of Velveeta gives a silky melt on top of the crunchy chips. I love a good carnitas nacho (braised pork), shredded steak or chicken as well. Adding meat makes the nachos more substantial, closer to a meal, if you eat enough like I usually do.

Nachos For A Party Crowd

Check my list below for any extras you can add and layer, layer, layer. It’s an oven-nacho trick. One layer of chips, cheese, toppings, covered by another layer and sometimes even a third. The even heat from the oven melts all the cheese and heats everything perfectly. Serve with tongs so guests can grab an entire serving at once.

Nachos For A Crowd checklist:
Cheese Please

Monterey Jack is perfect for melting. Pepper Jack adds great spice. Crumble Cotija or other Mexican cheese on top when the nachos come out of the oven.

Layers of Good

Two or three layers of chips, cheeses and toppings are perfect in the even heat of the oven.

Meat the Merrier

Add braised pulled pork for carnitas nachos, or shredded chicken or beef for a more hearty snack.

Top That

Additions like canned beans, white onions, pickled jalapeños, fresh tomatoes and sweet peppers are added in layers with the cheese and cooked along with the chips.

It All Adds Up

Have bowls of these add-ons for guests to try on their servings: sour cream, cilantro, sliced scallions, olives, guacamole, salsa and hot sauce.

Nachos For A Crowd

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Serves 12

Nachos For A Crowd

Crunchy chips with loads of toppings for hungry party-goers are easy to make when you do it in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 11-oz bags tortilla chips
  • 5 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 can drained black beans
  • ½ cup chopped white onion
  • ½ cup pickled jalapeños
  • Toppings such as cilantro, scallions and olives
  • Serve with sour cream, guacamole and salsa

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with foil. Arrange half of the chips on pans and top with some cheeses, beans, onion, and jalapeño. Repeat layers for two to three layers total. (These can be assembled up to one hour before baking.)
  2. Working with one sheet at a time, bake until cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, scallions and olives if desired and serve with desired toppings. Heat a second pan as the first for fresh, hot nachos.
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Nachos For A Party Crowd

For more recipes to entertain on game day, try my New Seven Layer Dip, or Chicken Meatballs with Cumin and Orange.
Recipe and photography by Tara Bench

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

By | Beef, Easy Dinners, Healthy + Diet, Kid Friendly Dinners, Kids, Main Dish, Uncategorized, Vegetables | No Comments

If you are going to make Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs, I ask of you one thing: just brush up on your squash knowledge, please!
Let me tell you why I say that. The grocery store I go to in the city is first, awesome (my opinion), second, totally bustling, packed and crazy. So, even the produce isle is sometimes like a Broccoli-Scallion Circus.
The other day I was minding my own business and weaving in and out of store workers and shoppers, checking things off my list. One store worker came up to another, reached for the fennel and asked “this is spaghetti squash?”

sims_squashmeatball1a x crop

Clearly someone had asked for it and he was headed to grab it for them. I couldn’t help it–my inner New Yorker came out and my brow furrowed and I blurted out “That’s fennel!” I quickly realized that part of my New York personality is never really helpful, so I nicely explained that spaghetti squash is smooth-skinned, the size of a football, bright yellow and is probably over by the butternut squash. I pointed. I did. I pointed the produce guy to HIS produce! I’m terrible.

But…what is this world coming to?
Friends, this is what spaghetti squash looks like.

Melissas Produce spaghetti squash

Photo courtesy of Melissa’s Produce

Cooking tips: I suggest you cook the squash in the microwave for a few minutes to soften the skin. This makes it much easier to cut it in half. Then simply scrape the seeds out, season and cook. This trick works for any hard, tough-skinned squash.

squashmeatball1a

These meatballs are tender, flavorful and mini! I love making them ahead, even a double batch, and keeping them in the freezer. Meatballs take a little chopping and mixing, so I typically double the recipe whenever I make them. They’re so easy to freeze and use several weeks later for a different meal. Saving time left and right.

Squashmeatball in bowl

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Makes 55 to 60 meatballs

1 meatball

Calories per serving: 45

Fat per serving: 3.5

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 3½- 4-lb spaghetti squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ recipe Mini Meatballs (recipe to follow)
  • 3½ cups jarred marinara sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup (2 oz) shredded Parmesan
  • Mini Meatballs
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, minced (1 cup)
  • ½ red bell pepper, minced (½ cup)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Microwave whole squash on High 5 minutes to soften. When just cool enough to handle, cut lengthwise in half and scoop out seeds. Place, cut side down in a shallow microwave-safe dish and microwave on High until flesh is completely softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Using a fork, pull squash from skin in long strands; set aside.
  2. While squash is cooling, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add meatballs and turn to coat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a saucepan and add sauce (reserve skillet); cook over medium-low heat until heated through about 2 minutes.
  3. Wipe skillet clean, add remaining 1 tbsp oil and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Toss in squash and sauce and cook 2 minutes; add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. On a serving platter, mound squash, top with meatballs and sauce, then sprinkle with parsley and cheese.
  5. Meatballs Instructions
  6. In a large bowl, using hands, mix together all ingredients until combined well. Using 1 tbsp mixture for each, roll into balls. (Can be made ahead: Transfer to a baking sheet and freeze until solid, about 1 hour. Divide between two heavy-duty resealable plastic bags, seal and freeze up to 3 weeks. Let stand at room temperature 10 min before cooking.)
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If this recipe looks good, you’ll probably be into my Brussels Sprouts with Apricot and Pistachios and Chicken and Rice Lettuce Wraps

Recipe and Food Styling Tara Bench
Photography Amy Kalyn Sims
Prop Styling Barb Fritz
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal January 2008

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup + Lowfat Soup Secrets

By | Easy Dinners, Healthy + Diet, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, One Dish Meals, Seafood, Soups + Stews + Chili, Tips And Techniques, Uncategorized | No Comments

I love Thai food and flavors. When I was traveling in Thailand, the broths and soups were so delicious I just wanted to drink them, forget the spoon!

With all the many great jarred curry pastes available (typically in the Asian section of your grocery store) these glorious Thai soups are a cinch. This Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup recipe has got to be the easiest one you’ll ever make. It tastes like that warming bowl of coconut and curry broth from your favorite Thai restaurant. It’s also low-fat, low-calorie, and high in protein. A great dinner for DETOX month, after the holidays.
Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup
I was a picky kid, and often had to eat around things I didn’t like. I’m still not a fan of certain foods and my heart goes out for kids all over who may be sitting in front of a bowl of shrimp soup, and can’t stomach shrimp! My mom might disagree, after all she is “not a short-order cook” as she liked to remind me; but I am fine if every once in a while you throw your kid a bone and adjust a recipe so they can enjoy it! LOL! I offered a kid-ifying option for my Chicken Tomato Bisque as well.

I swap the shrimp for chicken or tofu for a change (and to kid-ify this recipe if you need to). Both options cook in just a few minutes and keep this soup prep to under 30 minutes.

LOW FAT SOUP SECRETS
If you’re on a soup kick but want to keep the calories in check, take into consideration some of these low-fat soup secrets!

•For creamy soups, replace heavy cream with whole or evaporated milk.
•Try using smashed white beans or mashed potatoes instead of butter and flour as thickeners.
•Choose lean cuts of meat; try turkey bacon or chicken sausage.
•If you need more moisture when you’re cooking vegetables, add fat-free broth in place of butter or oil.
•Use canned low-sodium broth instead of water to add flavor to soup that doesn’t have a lot of time to simmer and cook.

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 5 cups

Calories per serving: 160

Fat per serving: 6.5 g

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup

Never tried Thai cooking? This mildly spicy dish will turn you into a huge fan.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14-oz can unsweetened light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (nahum plah)
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (4 oz) green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Lime wedges
  • Cilantro for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, combine chicken broth, coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Add green beans and cook 2 min. Add shrimp and cook until pink, 5 min. Top soup with scallions and serve with lime.

Notes

If you'd like you can swap the shrimp for thinly sliced chicken breast or even diced tofu. To make it completely pescatarian (not vegetarian because of the fish sauce) use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

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Recipe by Tara Bench
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Feb 2009
Photography: Sang An
Prop Stylist: Tiziana Agnello
Food Stylist: Jee Levin

Beef And Squash Stew

By | Beef, Casserole, Easy Dinners, Healthy + Diet, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, Meat + Poultry, Slow Cooker, Uncategorized, Vegetables | One Comment

Beef and squash stew in the slow cooker is just what you need for the winter weekend. This healthful, low-fat and veggie-packed dinner is also great for detoxing after the holidays.

I wanted a stew loaded with vegetables. I often feel like with just beef stew you have to make a separate salad or vegetable side to make a complete meal. This beautiful and tasty dish is basically a one pan meal! Also, did I just say a slow cooker recipe was beautiful?? HA! It totally is!
Beef And Squash Stew
I used thin slices of butternut squash for the top of the stew. To thinly slice the squash for the top use a mandolin or slicer. The slices don’t have to be perfect. Just arranged in an overlapping pattern they braise to be tender and act as a beautiful “crust”.
101652458The fennel and squash add a slight sweetness to this dish, but also makes it healthy and hearty. I added tomatoes for richness and a little tangy acidity with the tender beef and sweet veggies. This dinner is family friendly but also diet friendly!

Beef And Squash Stew

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

Calories per serving: 165

Fat per serving: 4 g

Beef And Squash Stew

Layers of healthy butternut squash on top make this dish extra good.

Ingredients

  • 2¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • ¾ tsp ground black pepper
  • 5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1½ lbs lean boneless beef chuck or round roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cut into ½-inch wedges
  • ¾ lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, drained and halved
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced ⅛ inch thick
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Combine thyme, salt and pepper; reserve 1 tsp of the mixture and stir cornstarch into the remainder. Toss the beef, fennel and potato in the cornstarch mixture and place in a 6-qt slow cooker, fitting the ingredients tightly; add tomatoes
  2. Toss squash with oil and 1 tsp of the thyme mixture. Arrange the smaller pieces of squash on top of stew in a circular patter, then repeat with the larger rounds to create a second layer; cover and cook 4½ hr on high or 8 hr on low.
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Recipe by Tara Bench and Khalil Hymore
Photographer: Peter Ardito
Food Stylist: Susan Ottaviano
Prop Stylist: Michelle Wong
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal February 2011

Shriveled Ogre-Nose Pizza

By | Appetizers + Nibbles, Bread, Easy Dinners, Entertaining, Fall, Halloween, Healthy + Diet, Holidays + Seasons, Kid Friendly Dinners, Kids, Main Dish, Party Foods, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Vegetarian | No Comments

Making little kids laugh has got to be one of the best things on the planet. I love when they lose it! Just toss their heads back laughing. It’s so gratifying to know that they are laughing, not out of courtesy, but because they genuinely think it’s funny. (Well at least most kids haven’t honed the skills of manipulation and the courtesy laugh)

My 3 year-old nephew Sawyer is a sucker for gibberish. All I have to do rattle off a nonsensical sentence to him in a language no one understands and he’s a gonner.

If you just read the name of this recipe to kids, I’ll guarantee at least a crinkled nose and grin. But, I’m pretty sure you’ll get a full blown laugh.

It’s the perfect, pre trick-or-treating dinner. Made with store-bought pizza dough, canned tomatoes, creamy ricotta and colorful roasted veggies, it’s simple enough to prepare–even while wearing your witch hat.

Shriveled Ogre-Nose Pizza

Shriveled Ogre-Nose Pizza

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 9 Servings

Calories per serving: 305

Fat per serving: 13.5 g

Roasted-Vegetable Pizza

Ingredients

  • 3 parsnips (about 1 lb), peeled
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 zucchini (about 8 oz)
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal
  • Flour, for work surface
  • 1 bag (1 lb) frozen pizza or bread dough, thawed
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1¼ cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 tbsp fresh or 1 tbsp dried oregano

Instructions

  1. 1. Heat oven to 400°F. Cut parsnips into 2- to 4-inch-long by ½-inch-thick sticks; toss with 1 tbsp oil and ¼ tsp salt. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 min.
  2. 2. Meanwhile, cut bell pepper into thin slices. Cut zucchini lengthwise in half, then into ¼-inch-thick slices. in a large bowl, toss together bell pepper, zucchini, remaining 2 tbsp oil and ¼ tsp salt; add to roasting parsnips on baking sheet. Roast until tender and just golden, about 20 min. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  3. 3. Increase oven to 450°F and place rack in lower third. Sprinkle a baking sheet with 1 tbsp cornmeal; set aside.
  4. 4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough and, using, hands, stretch to 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Top with half of each tomatoes, ricotta (in dollops) and roasted vegetables. Bake until cooked through and bottom is golden brown, 15 to 18 min. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make one more pizza.
  5. 5. Transfer pizzas to a cutting board, drizzle with oil and top with oregano.
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Recipes by Tara Bench
Original published in Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct 2008
Photography Evan Sklar
Prop Styling Megan Hedgpeth
Food Styling Susan Vajaranant

DIY Mummies hold your Mozzarella Sticks for a Halloween Snack

Mozzarella Stick Mummy Bowls

By | Appetizers + Nibbles, Craft, DIY, Entertaining, Halloween, Holidays + Seasons, Kid Friendly Dinners, Kids, Kids Crafts, Lifestyle, Party Foods, Uncategorized | No Comments

Cute craft alert!!!!

Mozzarella Stick Mummy Bowls

Who doesn’t love to eat a crispy mozzarella stick out of the top of a mummy head? Mozzarella sticks have got to be one of the best, quick, crowd-pleasing snacks around. (Seriously, I made some for my friends on a beach trip this summer and I almost didn’t even get one, they were gone in two seconds!) Also, how perfect are they for a pre trick-or-treating snack? Very perfect.

Kids are typically too excited to eat dinner on Halloween night. Thoughts of a sugar rush just around the corner. Any kid (or adult food blogger like me) would get a kick out of snacking on a toasty cheese stick with “bloody” marinara sauce. They can even help make the googly-eyed mummy bowls!

For instructions click to the Farm Rich site!

Set-up

 

Photos and idea courtesy of Farm Rich

Corn Chorizo Tacos + Prep Tip

By | Easy Dinners, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, Meat + Poultry, Pork, Summertime Favorites, Tips And Techniques, Vegetables | One Comment

Corn Chorizo Tacos

If I believed in “30-minute meals” this would fall right smack dab into that category.

However, unless you have elves*, washing, prepping, chopping and organizing ingredients in your kitchen, there are very few meals that actually take only 30 minutes from start to finish. (Ok, so there’s also packaged foods that help…think “semi-homemade.”)

*If you have elves helping you, please let me know where I can get my own. Thanks.

What I’m trying to get at is, these darn fantastic tacos are made with your own two hands, are really easy, and fast!

Corn Chorizo Tacos

Prep Tip:

The kind of tip everyone needs in their day…the kind about onions (sarcasm).

This is cool though: When slicing onions for sautéing (as in this recipe) or even for caramelizing, cut them root to tip. If you cut them crosswise into half-circle slices, you end up with long, worm-like onion pieces once they cook and soften. No one likes having the other half of a long onion slice hit their chin when they bit into something.
Cutting slices root to tip keeps the onions in a more appetizing shape, when tossing in, say, a taco.

Corn Chorizo Tacos Preparation

Corn Chorizo Tacos + Prep Tip

Yield: Serves 6 (two each)

Frozen corn makes this dinner come together fast, but in the summer and fall try fresh corn off the cob for a really fantastic, sweet contrast to the spicy sausage.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (3 oz) thinly sliced dried chorizo
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2½ cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen, thawed)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Lime wedges
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet cook the chorizo until crispy; drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 1 tbsp fat from the skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring over medium-high heat until onion is just soft, about 5 min. Add the corn and chorizo and cook briefly to heat through.
  2. Heat corn tortillas, fill with corn mixture and serve with lime wedges, sour cream and cilantro.
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Recipe by Tara Bench, originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Aug/12. Photography Peter Ardito. Food Styling Alison Attenborough. Prop Styling Courtney De Wet

Chicken Tomato Bisque + Kid Tip

By | Chicken, Easy Dinners, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, Meat + Poultry, One Dish Meals, Soups + Stews + Chili, Tips And Techniques, Uncategorized, Vegetables | 2 Comments

Chicken Tomato Bisque
Plus Kid-style tips!

First, this is an easy, really good creamy tomato soup. Make it in under an hour—we all have things to do, people to see…
Then you add shredded chicken (leftovers are awesome for this!), and it makes a complete meal—right in the bowl.

Kid Style
As much as we’d like to deny it, kids are picky. Also, grown women like me are picky, but that’s for another time.
So unless your children are like my food-hero-nephew Jackson, who asks for broccoli for breakfast, here’s a thought:
Don’t add the chicken to the soup (also leave off the beautiful leafy oregano garnish). Cut chicken into little bites along with some squares of bread and cheese and hand the child some toothpicks. Let them dunk skewered bites of these morsels into the tomato soup. FTW*

*That means “for the win” for people like me who had to Google it.

Chicken Tomato Bisque 

Chicken Tomato Bisque + Kid Tip

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Makes 5 cups

Leftover grilled, roasted or rotisserie chicken is perfect for this easy weeknight meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp chopped oregano
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups (12 oz) shredded cooked chicken

Instructions

  1. In a 6-qt pot over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, carrot, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is soft, 6 to 8 min. Stir in flour until vegetables are coated, then add tomatoes. Add broth and ½ tsp oregano and stir, breaking up tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 8 to 10 min.
  2. Working in small batches, puree soup in a blender of food processor and transfer back to pot. Stir in cream, salt and chicken and heat through. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper and serve garnished with remaining oregano.
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Recipe by Tara Bench originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Sept/09. Photography Alexandra Rowley. Food Styling Roscoe Betsil. Prop Styling Jen Everett.

 

Cauliflower Mac ‘n’ Cheese

By | Casserole, Easy Dinners, Healthy + Diet, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, One Dish Meals, Side Dishes, Tips And Techniques, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Vegetarian | No Comments

Cauliflower Mac 'n' Cheese

Several years ago I was asked to create a recipe for macaroni and cheese with hidden vegetables (remember that trend?). But really how can you “hide” vegetables in macaroni and cheese–it’s pasta, and cheese sauce…anything else stands out like a sore thumb!

After many versions (and then maybe a few more versions, just because it was delicious), the result was prrrretty close to actually hiding vegetables in mac ‘n’ cheese, and since cauliflower is bulky about half the pasta was replaced by this “invisible” veggie. And my goodness is it tasty–like really awesome.

Cauliflower Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Calories per serving: 23.5 g

Boursin with herbs adds flavor, but you can swap if for fat-free cream cheese if you like.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (12 oz) cauliflower florets
  • Cooking spray
  • ½ lb cavatappi or other curly pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2½ cups (7 oz) grated cheddar
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup (4 oz) Boursin Light Garlic and Herbs Spreadable Cheese
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425ºF. Spread cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and coat lightly with cooking spray. Roast until florets begin to brown, about 10 min. Remove cauliflower and reduce oven to 375ºF.
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside. In a large saucepan over medium heat whisk olive oil and flour for 1 min. Add milk, whisking constantly. Stir in mustard, salt and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened, about 8 min. Remove sauce from heat. Add 2 cups cheddar, Parmesan and Boursin and stir until melted. Add pasta and cauliflower; stir to coat.
  3. Pour pasta into a greased 2-qt baking dish. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup cheddar, then bread crumbs. Bake until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is bubbling, about 30 min.
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Recipe by Tara Bench, originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal, Nov/12. Photo credit Lisa Hubbard. Food Stylist Susan Vajaranant. Prop Stylist Penelope Bouklas.

Chicken In Paper

By | Chicken, Easy Dinners, Entertaining, Healthy + Diet, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, Meat + Poultry, One Dish Meals, Tips And Techniques, Tutorial, Uncategorized | No Comments
Chicken In Paper

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Cooking in parchment is an easy, low-fat and fun way to do dinner.

Ingredients

  • 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp red-pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup golden raisins
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400ºF. Place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to an even ½-thickness. Prepare four 20-by-30-inch pieces of parchment: fold in half and cut into a half-heart shape. Unfold and place chicken on one side of each paper.
  2. In a bowl combine parsley, garlic, zest, salt and red-pepper flakes. Divide mixture among chicken breasts, covering the surface of each piece. Sprinkle with raisins and nuts.
  3. Fold parchment over chicken breasts and pleat in 1-inch increments, folding edges over tightly to seal packet. Fold the last pleat underneath the packet. Place packets on a baking sheet; bake until packets are puffed and chicken is cooked through, 15 min.
  4. Carefully transfer packets to plates, cut the paper across the top and tear to open.
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Chicken in Paper

If you’re French you call this cooking technique “en papillote.” I am not French, so we’re calling it Chicken In Paper. (But feel free to throw that French term around if you want to impress folks with your foodie genius.)

En Papillote means to cook something in paper…parchment paper in this instance. Your prepped food, lean meats, vegetables, seasonings, etcetera go into a sealed packet and essentially get steamed in the oven. Usually it takes about 15 minutes (remember, steam is super hot–this stuff cooks fast!), and your results are locked in flavor, moisture and a really cool presentation.

For even faster cooking, give your chicken a few taps with the rolling pin or meat mallet to flatten.

Chicken in Pepper How to Step 1

For cute parchment packets, fold 20-by-30-inch pieces in half and cut into half-heart shapes. Unfold and fill.

Chicken in Pepper How To Step 2

Fold tightly around the open edge to seal, tucking the final pleat under.

Chicken in Pepper How To Step 3

Recipe by Tara Bench, original published in Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept/10. Photo credit Hallie Burton. Food Stylist Anne Disrude. Prop Stylist Randi Brookman Harris