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

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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.


  • 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


  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

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

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
Courtesy of

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Make A Better Burger

By | Beef, Easy Dinners, Main Dish, Sandwiches, Uncategorized | No Comments

When it comes to your signature, juicy burgers, you may not think you can make a better burger. Think again!

Let’s talk mushrooms, blended with your meat, making them more delicious, nutritious and sustainable. It’s your new secret for grilling season, and I can say– really tasty–from first hand experience!

This week I attended the kickoff event for the second annual James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project, a partnership with the Mushroom Council. Chefs from around the country participate in creating the most amazing blended burgers. The project is open to all chefs and last year nearly 250 restaurants joined in creating takes on this culinary concept.

Make A Better Burger

Hugh Acheson’s Cremini-Lamb Burger with Charred Scallions, Boursin, Pickles and Tomato on a Potato Roll at the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project launch event on March 28, 2016 at the James Beard House. Photo credit: Ken Goodman.

If you think about it, mushrooms are a perfect addition to homemade burgers. They have a meaty texture themselves, add moisture and earthy flavor. Cooked mushrooms also have an umami quality, that fifth basic taste chefs often talk about described as a ‘pleasant savory taste.’

The addition of vegetables to ground beef is not new. Meatloaf is often loaded with savory blends of onions, celery and carrots. They add loads of flavor, moisture, and great texture that you’re familiar with in meatloaf. Many a smart mom has used this trick to sneak veggies onto their kids plates, hiding everything from zucchini to spinach in ground meat.

Mixing meat with vegetables is a great way to stretch your grocery dollar, since veggies are cheaper than quality meat. Mushrooms also add vitamin D to your diet and help boost your immune functions. Try a variety of mushrooms in your burgers, from meaty portabellos to shiitake and button mushrooms.

James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project

Hugh Acheson, James Beard Foundation Award Winning Chef and Author at the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project launch event on March 28, 2016 at the James Beard House. Photo credit: Ken Goodman.

The competition opened this week at the James Beard Foundation in New York City. I was happy to be able to attend and taste chef Hugh Acheson’s take on a mushroom-blended burger. He mixed cremini mushrooms with ground lamb and topped it with Boursin cheese to make the most delicious meal.

I’ve included his recipe below. Try it out, and be inspired to try your own blended burger creations. You can be involved by helping your favorite chef win an opportunity to cook their blended burger and the historic James Beard House. Just go here to cast your vote.

Cremini-Lamb Burger with Charred Scallions, Boursin, Pickles and Tomato

Cremini-Lamb Burger with Charred Scallions, Boursin, Pickles and Tomato

Recipe courtesy of the James Beard Foundation and chef Hugh Acheson.


  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 16 crinkle cut dill pickles
  • 1 5-oz container Boursin cheese
  • 4 potato buns


  1. Add 3 tbsp butter to a large saute pan and place over medium-high heat. When the butter bubbles add the shallots and cook for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic, mushrooms and fresh thyme. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Season with 1/2 tsp salt. Transfer the mushroom mixture from pan to a large bowl and let cool.
  2. Clean the pan with paper towel and place over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the scallions to the pan and char them for 4 minutes on each side. Remove the scallions, chop into 1/2 inch pieces and add them to the mushroom mixture.
  3. Place the ground lamb in a large bowl and season with remaining salt. Add the cooled mushroom mixture and mix well to thoroughly incorporate all components. Divide the mixture into 4 equal balls and form into patties about 5 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate until ready to grill.
  4. Spread the remaining 1 tbsp butter on each bun and toast in a pan over medium heat until each side is a nice buttery brown. Remove and cool while burgers cook.
  5. On a hot grill cook the burgers for 3 minutes per side. When they're done, rest the burgers off the heat for 3 minutes. Top each bun with a burger, some Boursin then a slice of tomato and pickles.
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Hugh Acheson, James Beard Foundation Award Winning Chef and Author

Hugh Acheson, James Beard Foundation Award Winning Chef and Author at the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project launch event on March 28, 2016 at the James Beard House. Photo credit: Ken Goodman.

Recipe and photos courtesy of The Blended Burger Project.

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.


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


  • 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


  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

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.


  • 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


  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

Beef and Vegetable Stew with Biscuit Topping

By | Beef, Easy Dinners, Main Dish, Soups + Stews + Chili, Uncategorized, Vegetables | No Comments

This is a delicious, saucy beef stew, made better with biscuits baked right on top. Some call it a casserole, some call it a stew. I call it whatever you want to hear that will make you want to cook it, then feed it to me right this minute.

I took the liberty of developing it for a traditional casserole vessel, or if you want, individual servings. They are just so cute individual!! (Either way tastes the same by the way, wink)

Happy comfort-fooding

Beef and Vegetable Stew with Biscuit Topping


Beef and Vegetable Stew with Biscuit Topping

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Calories per serving: 700

Fat per serving: 38.5 g

Beef and Vegetable Stew with Biscuit Topping

With its biscuit topping and rich flavors, this is the perfect comfort food


  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 carrots, cut into ½-inch slices
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz white button mushrooms, sliced ⅜ inch thick
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • ¼ cup steak sauce (such as A1)
  • 1½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 2¼ cups packaged biscuit mix
  • ⅔ cup milk


  1. Heat oven to 325°F. In a bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper; toss with beef until coated well. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. in two batches, cook beef (adding 1 tbsp oil to second batch), burning, until browned, about 4 min. Transfer to a plate. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic to pot. Cook, stirring until wilted, 8 min. Stir in beef, mushrooms, wine, broth, steak sauce and Italian seasoning. Cover; bake 50 min. Remove from oven.
  2. About 20 min before serving, stir together biscuit mix and milk until just combined.
  3. Increase oven to 400°. (To make individual servings, transfer beef mixture to pint-size casserole pans.) Drop biscuit batter in mounds over beef mixture. Bake, uncovered, until biscuits are lightly browned, 15 to 20 min.
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Recipe by Tara Bench
Food Stylist Nicole Faber
Prop Stylist Carol Linnan
Originally Published in Ladies’ Home Journal January 2009