A few weeks ago Jack & I were visiting family in Cary, NC, to celebrate my great-grandson’s 5th birthday. Julian was excited to show me how he swims in the big community pool so, off we went. After sunscreen, earplugs & swim arms, he was ready to have fun. All the while I was a little distracted by the amazing aroma of grilling taking place to my right at one of the grill stations nearby. I could see chicken and steak on the grill which made my mouth start watering. I had to investigate! I then had the pleasure of meeting Dwayne & Sylvia Pearce. Dwayne is the Grill Master but quickly confessed that it’s his wife Sylvia’s homemade rub that makes the food delicious. It was very evident to me that Dwayne was enjoying every moment at the grill in spite of the 90º temperature outside. Their generosity extended to me a sampling of their chicken drumsticks and I was hooked! The chicken was grilled to perfection, full of spicy flavor, and very moist. Like many accomplished cooks, Sylvia uses a little of this and a little of that until the taste is just the way they like it. Thanks so much to Sylvia & Dwayne for sharing your good nature, spice rub ingredients, and chicken with me. I love it!
After making this delicious dinner many, many times we decided to add some Kalamata olives for a little extra color. What a wonderful addition! Not only did it add color but the olives added a little brininess to the Mediterranean flavor! Below is the original posting now with the addition of the olives. See Notes below for Gluten-free options.
While relaxing on my front porch after repotting some plants today, Teresa pulled up with some cod for tonight’s dinner. Cod is one of those fish that takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with making a Mediterranean-style dinner absolutely delicious. We were wondering what we had on hand to make with it and I found a half-full jar of pearl couscous! We had some grape tomatoes, plenty of garlic, onions, & feta cheese, along with a garden full of fresh herbs. We set about making dinner. We’ve said this before and it’s very true…some of the best dinners we make are thrown together with what we have on hand. This dinner turned out fabulous…we were counting on leftovers but NONE were to be had!
Mediterranean-Style Cod over Couscous
While relaxing on my front porch after repotting some plants today, Teresa pulled up with some cod for tonight's dinner. Cod is one of those fish that takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with making a Mediterranean-style dinner absolutely delicious. We were wondering what we had on hand to make with it and I found a half-full jar of pearl couscous! We had some grape tomatoes, plenty of garlic, onions, & feta cheese, along with a garden full of fresh herbs. We set about making dinner. We've said this before and it's very true...some of the best dinners we make are thrown together with what we have on hand. This dinner turned out fabulous...we were counting on leftovers but NONE were to be had!😋❤️
1¾cupspearl couscousalso known as Israeli couscous
1large sweet onionroughly chopped
6-8large cloves garlic peeled & minced
10ozfresh baby spinacha few large handfuls
salt & pepper to taste
6ouncesFeta cheesewe use President's Chunk
In a large skillet add the Israeli/pearl couscous to a dry, hot skillet. Gently stir to prevent burning. After a few minutes, the couscous will start to brown. Do not burn. Not all the couscous will brown & that's ok.
Add the chicken stock, cover, lower heat, and simmer about 15-18 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
In a large, deep skillet, saute the onions until they start to caramelize then add garlic & cook another minute. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Add the cooked onions, garlic, & spinach to the couscous. Stir well. Cover and set aside until fish is done.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Turn oven to broil. Once hot, reduce the oven temperature to 425º.
Wash tomatoes then coat them along with the whole cloves of garlic (skin on) with 1-2 Tablespoons of EVOO. Sprinkle with salt. Combine well. Place on a lined baking sheet.
Place baking sheet on the top oven rack and bake for 15-20 minutes at 425ºF, until tomatoes blister & garlic is soft.
Remove from the oven when done. Using a fork or a wooden spoon, smash the garlic. Take half the tomatoes plus the juice and garlic then add to couscous, mixing well.
Just before serving, crumble & add the Feta cheese & Kalamata olives to the couscous and combine.
Using the same rimmed baking sheet, drizzle EVOO and arrange the pieces of cod on the sheet. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt & pepper, chopped fresh greek oregano. Drizzle lightly with EVOO and place on center rack of 425º oven.
Cook 10-16 minutes, depending on the thickness of cod until it's opaque & flakes.
To serve, place cooked couscous mixture on a serving platter and top with fish fillets. Sprinkle with remaining blistered tomatoes & garlic. Garnish with sprigs of fresh oregano or thyme.
Use any white fish of your choice including, shrimp, lobster, and/or scallops in place of cod.Dried oregano or thyme may be used in place of fresh. For every 1 Tablespoon of fresh herbs use 1 tsp dried.To make this recipe Gluten-Free use GF pearl couscous, GF small pasta, or rice in place of regular pearl couscous.
With the first spoonful of our savory Tuscan Bean Soup you will be swept away to Tuscany admiring the sunflowers. It’s chock full of vegetables, delicious flavor & of course love! Serve as a main meal for either lunch or dinner and don't forget the toasted crusty bread to soak up every last drop. Enjoy!
3 (15.5 oz) cans cannellini beans with liquid (divided into 3/4 and 1/4)
1 rounded tsp Hunt’s tomato paste with garlic & basil
1 leek, chopped (both white & green parts)
2 yellow onions, diced ( I was out of yellow onions so I substituted with red)
2 cups large celery stalks, large dice (about 3-4 ribs)
2 cups large carrots, large dice (about 5-6 peeled carrots)
8-10 garlic cloves, smashed then chopped (Add more or less to suit your taste.)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 large bay leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
3-4 handfuls baby spinach, torn by hand (escarole or kale may be substituted)
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups beef broth
1 small piece of rind from a block of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 ounces Ditalini pasta (any small pasta may be substituted.)
Pecorino Romano, freshly grated cheese (Locatelli), or Parmigiano-Reggiano (not the stuff in the green container, please!)
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, add the EVOO. When EVOO is hot enough add the leeks, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and salt & pepper. Sauté on medium heat about 5 minutes.
Add garlic, spinach, cheese rind, and 3/4 of the canned beans. Cook for another 3 minutes on medium-low flame until fragrant. Using an immersion blender, blend the remaining 1/4 beans then add to the pot and stir.
Add the tomato paste and stir well.
Add the hand-crushed tomatoes, both broths & stir well. Add 3 oz of ditalini to the soup. (If you’re making more than 3 oz of pasta, we recommend you cook it separately & add it right before serving.)
Bring to a slow boil. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat to a simmer and simmer for about 40-45 minutes or until vegetables are done.
While the soup is simmering, prepare the ditalini pasta following package directions.
Ladle soup into bowls & add the pasta. Sprinkle with grated Locatelli cheese (Pecorino Romano). Enjoy!
Note: You can double this recipe for a big batch to freeze for later use. Just don’t add the pasta before freezing.
To make this soup gluten-free, use GF broth & GF pasta.
Ranch dressing is delicious on salads, cooked vegetables, chicken tenders, and as a dip for fresh vegetables. When my grandsons were little boys ranch dressing was the perfect way to get them to eat fresh vegetables. They couldn't get enough. Actually, this dressing is good on everything!!! Our homemade Balsamic Ranch dressing is so good and easy to make you will never buy store-bought again! 😋❤️
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve remove from refrigerator and pour over salad greens or vegetables. Enjoy !
Notes: Try adding blue cheese crumbles and bacon crumbles on top for an added touch…Delicious!
If you’re lucky enough to have a have a garden with an abundance of fresh vegetables, you must try making some Ciambotta (pronounced chim-botta)! Even if you don’t have a garden, grocery stores are full of a variety of fresh, local produce during the summer. It’s a delicious and nutritious way to use your harvest or take advantage of the fresh produce available now. Ciambotta can also be spelled giambotta, depending on the region of Italy. This version is a southern Italy farm dish. The great thing about this dish is you can use whatever veggies you like. The key is big, equal size cubes or chunks... and it’s naturally Gluten-Free. I served it with crusty whole wheat French bread drizzled with EVOO and Za’atar seasoning. It was delicious. Enjoy. 😋❤️
1 large yellow onion, cubed
8-10 cloves large garlic, peeled and diced
1/4 cup EVOO
4-5 golden Yukon potatoes, cubed
6 large Roma tomatoes, skin & seeds removed, cubed
2 medium eggplants, ends removed and cubed
2 medium zucchini, ends removed and cubed
1 large green bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into big chunks
1 large red bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into big chunks
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into big chunks
2 handfuls of fresh spinach (optional)
1 jalapeño (I used jalapeño) or long Italian hot pepper (optional)
Salt & pepper, to taste
20 fresh basil leaves, torn right before adding
1 sprig Greek oregano, (optional)
Boil the Roma tomatoes for a few minutes until the skin starts to crack. Remove from boiling water and cool. Once cool enough to handle you can easily peel off the skin., Cut them in half, remove the seeds and cube.
In a minimum 6 qt deep Dutch oven, On medium-high, heat EVOO until it starts to shimmer.
Add the onions and garlic and turn several times until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeño pepper, zucchini, potatoes, give it a good turn.
Add the eggplants last. Turn well and cook about 10 minutes.
Add salt and black pepper to taste and tear the basil leaves, sprig of Greek oregano (if using) and add to pot. Stir together.
Lower flame to medium-low and cover. Cook about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now is a good time to prepare any pasta or crusty bread.
For the bread: Preheat oven to 400ºF. Slice the Italian or French bread into 1/2-inch slices and place on foiled baking sheet. Drizzle each piece with EVOO then sprinkle with Za’atar seasoning, garlic powder, & a little sea salt.
Bake about 4 minutes until golden brown. (Bake when Ciambotta is just about done)
Serve in pasta dishes with crusty bread on the side or over pasta & garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Notes: Serve with crusty gluten-free bread to keep completely gluten-free or use Italian or French bread to soak up the juices! Can be served with pasta too.
I'm always looking for ways to use the herbs I'm growing in my garden. I have quite a bit of Thai basil which I've made delicious chicken salad and Thai basil Chicken with but I wanted to experiment with other dishes. I made a summertime bean salad and added quite a few Thai basil leaves to see how it tasted...we loved it. You're still getting protein through the beans and this dish delivers big time on flavor. Enjoy by itself in lettuce leaves or as a side dish with no cooking as an added bonus during the hot summer! Naturally Gluten-Free. Enjoy. 😋❤️
1 can (15 oz) Chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 large red onion
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
4 large cloves garlic, minced
ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4- 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped
In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, parsley, Thai basil, garlic & pepper. Slowly whisk in the EVOO & set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the rinsed & drained beans, celery, and red onion.
Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and gently toss to coat evenly.
Garnish with a few Thai basil leaves.
Notes: Leftovers can be added to rice & cooked green beans for a delicious side to basil pesto chicken.
My Thai basil growing in hay bales
Summertime Bean Salad – Twiins Style mixed with brown rice & cooked cut green beans
When marinating chicken with Greek-inspired flavors the Mediterranean is brought to your dinner table and with it all the sunshine and joy for life that is associated with a beautiful outdoor dinner in the Greek Islands! This dish is so simple but packs huge flavor! Whether you want a quick family meal or a casual dinner with friends you will love it...Enjoy!😋❤️
2 large boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise to make 4 pieces
2 tsp EVOO
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1½ tsp fresh Greek oregano, chopped (dried may be substituted, but use a lesser amount)
1½ tsp fresh dill, chopped ( dried may be substituted, but use a lesser amount)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3-4 Tablespoons 2% milk ( any milk works well)
1½ Tablespoons red onion, chopped
1 large tomato, sliced
Fresh oregano, chopped for garnish
Mixed salad greens with olives, cucumbers, red onion, thin sliced
Optional: Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)
In a large bowl, combine 2 tsp EVOO, red wine vinegar, oregano, dill, garlic powder, salt & pepper.
Pound chicken between sheets of waxed paper to a 1/4” thickness. Cut each piece in half to yield approximately 6-8 pieces of chicken breast.
Add chicken breasts to the marinade, cover & refrigerate 30 minutes. (this step can be prepared ahead of time until ready for cooking.)
In a small bowl, combine the Feta cheese, garlic powder, 2% milk & chopped red onion. Using a fork, mash well to make a spread. Add additional milk if too thick until you reach desired consistency. (this step can be prepared ahead of time & refrigerated until ready to serve)
In a grill pan or large skillet drizzle 1 tsp of EVOO, then using a paper towel, coat pan.
Heat pan to medium-high. Once hot, place half the chicken pieces in the pan and cook until browned approximately 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan & set aside. Cook remaining chicken breasts and set aside.
Place mixed salad greens on a dinner plate then top with cooked chicken breast(s). Garnish the chicken with Feta cheese spread. Arrange tomato slices on the dish and garnish with fresh Greek oregano.
Preparation of Feta cheese spread
Marinated Chicken breasts in grill pan
Grilled chicken breasts set aside
Plated Grilled Greek Chicken breasts
Also can replace “burger night” meal or next days lunch in a sandwich
Notes: Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers. To enhance this Greek meal, drizzle salad greens with EVOO, red wine vinegar, add a little feta cheese, red onion, cucumber, and some Greek olives for a side salad. The creamy feta cheese spread is delicious on any vegetable or baked potato.
This is an amazing side dish using pearl (Israeli) couscous which is much larger than regular couscous. Combining onions, garlic, blistered tomatoes, roasted mashed garlic, and herbs give you a hearty side dish that you can add your favorite vegetables to! 😋❤️
1¾ cups pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous)
2¾ cup chicken broth
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
6-8 large cloves garlic peeled & minced
2 pints cherry tomatoes
6-8 large cloves garlic, cut off the end but keep the skin on
fresh baby spinach (a few handfuls)
salt & pepper to taste
6 ounces Feta cheese (we use President’s Chunk)
In a large skillet add the Israeli/pearl couscous to a dry, hot skillet. Gently stir to prevent burning. After a few minutes, the couscous will start to brown. Do not burn. Not all the couscous will brown & that’s ok.
Add the chicken stock, cover, and cook about 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove cover and set aside.
In a small skillet, saute the onions until they start to caramelize then add spinach. Cook until it starts to wilt then add the garlic & cook another minute. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Add the cooked onions, spinach & garlic to the couscous. Stir well. Cover and set aside until fish is done.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Turn oven to 500ºF or broil. Once hot, reduce the oven temperature to 425ºF.
Rinse tomatoes with water (no need to dry them). Coat the cherry tomatoes & whole cloves of garlic with 1 Tablespoon of EVOO. Sprinkle with salt. Combine well. Place on the lined baking sheet.
Place baking sheet on the top oven rack and bake for 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes blister & garlic is soft (there should be a bit of juice too)
Remove from the oven when done. Using a fork or a wooden spoon, smash the garlic (it slips right out of the skin). Take half the tomatoes plus the juice and garlic then add to couscous, mixing well.
Just before serving, crumble & add the Feta cheese to the couscous.
To serve, place cooked couscous mixture on a serving platter and sprinkle with remaining blistered tomatoes & garlic. Garnish with sprigs of fresh oregano & thyme.
Notes: This dish makes the perfect side dish to any meat or fish or serve alone mixed into a fresh mixed-greens salad for a refreshing summer main dish.
What I love about stuffed peppers, beside the terrific vitamin C health benefit, is the amazing possibilities of stuffing combinations. Our mother always made them with a mixture of ground beef, Minute Rice, and Locatelli cheese then cooked them in marinara sauce for a simple, no-fuss, one-pot meal. Barbara made them sweet & sour. We used to make them for our families, but our children weren’t fans. I tried serving them over linguini, which is absolutely delicious; however, their battle cry became “not again”. It’s funny how their recollection is so different from mine! Putting all that aside I like to mix things up by combining new flavors and using pantry items already on hand. Some of our best recipes come from whatever we find in the pantry and throw them together! 😋 😋
2 (8.8 oz) pouches ‘TastyBite Organic Brown Rice with Quinoa & Lentils Seasoned with Herbs & Spices’
1lb ground beef
4 oz Uncured Pancetta, diced
1 x-large sweet onion (or 2 medium), diced
2 Tablespoons EVOO
6 Bell peppers, assorted colors, cut in half lengthwise, seeded & ribs removed
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1½ -2 Tablespoons Za’atar spice (may substitute with Oregano)
12 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
salt & pepper to taste
1/2-1 cup chicken broth (enough to fill the bottom of the pan by 1 inch)
In a large skillet saute onions until soft, then add pancetta and saute for 2 minutes.
Add garlic, salt & pepper and saute for 1 minute.
Add ground beef and cook over medium heat stirring often to break up meat until thoroughly cooked (no pink). Remove from heat & set Bake 25-35 minutes, d aside.
Tear pouches of brown rice, quinoa & lentils 2 inches to vent. Place each pouch separately in the microwave on high for 90 seconds each.
Empty contents of the cooked pouches into the skillet filled with the meat mixture & let cool.
Once the meat mixture is cooled add half the shredded cheese. Combine well.
In a large 9 x 13 x 2-inch roasting pan drizzle a small amount of EVOO.
Pour chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan to about 1-inch depth.
Place each pepper half in the pan, then spoon meat mixture into each pepper making a nice mound. Do not pack down.
Top each pepper with the remaining shredded cheese and place in a pre-heated 375º oven.
Bake 25-35 minutes until cheese is melted. ( Every oven is different so timing may vary)
Serve hot with a side salad and enjoy!
Notes: Any soft, melting cheese can be used in place of Gruyere. For strictly vegetarian stuffed peppers use drained black beans in place of ground meat.
Greek Chicken Souvlaki with Yogurt Honey Mustard Sauce
When I was working, we frequently ordered lunch from a wonderful nearby deli that made the best chicken souvlaki. Whenever I went out for Greek cuisine, it was their souvlaki & tzatziki sauce I used as a comparison. This recipe is delicious, easy to make & definitely worth including in your dinner rotations. Enjoy! 😋 😋
2 chicken breasts
200 g brine
1/2 English cucumber, diced
2 large onions, thinly sliced & carmelized
grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
Kalamata olives, sliced
Feta cheese, small block (crumble into large pieces)
Add all the ingredients for the brine in a medium saucepan. Stir & bring to a boil. Remove from heat once it comes to a full boil and set aside for 1 hour.
Strain into a bowl once completely cooled. Discard all but the liquid.
Chop the chicken into small bite-size pieces and add to the brine. Soak for 30 minutes but no more than 1 hour.
Cooking the chicken on skewers:
Remove chicken pieces from the brine and drain well. Dry off completely with paper towels. All the moisture needs to be drained.
Thread the chicken onto wooden skewers that have been soaked in water. Add a drizzle of EVOO onto a very hot griddle, place skewers of chicken onto hot griddle and brown on all sides, about 3-4 minutes.
Once browned place the griddle with the chicken skewers directly onto the center rack in the oven for 5 minutes. (Make sure your griddle is oven-proof, if not place on tin foil)
At the same time, place the prepared Greek Pita Bread on the bottom rack after drizzling the pita bread lightly with EVOO. Season with salt & pepper. Bake 5 minutes.
Yogurt Honey Mustard Sauce:
While the pita bread & chicken are warming, combine all the ingredients for the yogurt honey mustard sauce in a small bowl.
On a large serving platter, place the warmed pita bread and serve the chicken souvlaki with chopped tomatoes, caramelized onions, lettuce, feta, kalamata olives, and the yogurt honey mustard sauce. You can also try it with tzatziki sauce in place of yogurt honey mustard or combine both together.
Notes: Homemade Authentic Greek Pita Bread is by far the best tasting you can have and it’s so easy to make yourself…really! Give it a try.