Light Summer Suppers with The Strawberry Blondes

Without any outdoor space to grill in the summer, I will admit that I have a bit of “grill envy” when I hear people talk about going home to cook on the grill for dinner. Finding light summer suppers with seasonal and fresh ingredients is a challenge without a grill but I am always up for a challenge!

Tobesmcgobes loves all the action outside of our apartment in the summer. He sits with his chin on the windowsill and just stares out at all the dogs running around, boats going by and people laying on the dock outside of our window. The other night after dinner Jon let him up on the new couch for the first time. We agreed this would not become routine but he was SO excited to sit on Jon’s lap and be able to look right out the window. Can’t get enough of the cuteness.

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Anywho – back to my summer suppers. The first meal I cooked when I got back home after my fabulous engagement weekend was chicken fajitas. One of our favorite restaurants is Papagayo. They make the most amazing fajitas but sometimes we just like to make them at home. I cooked brown rice and added about a half teaspoon of taco seasoning to make it Mexican. I sliced half of a yellow onion and cooked until soft.

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I bought delicious fresh mango salsa from Whole Foods and a nice block of cheddar cheese. I also cheated and bought a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods. For anyone who doesn’t know – rotisserie chickens are buy one for $9 and get the second one for half price. And they are delish!

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Tobes likes fajita night too.

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And check out the new bling serving up the fajitas!

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Another easy summer dinner is stir fry. Sirloin was on sale so I bought peppers, broccoli and onion to make a stir fry. I marinated the steak in a soy ginger sauce.

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I cooked the steak in the marinade and added a little hot sauce and about half a teaspoon of garlic.

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I removed the steak from the pan and then added in the peppers, onion and broccoli. I let the vegetables simmer for a few minutes then added a bit more soy ginger sauce and the juice from half of a lime.

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I cooked some brown rice noodles and added to the stir fry. Tobes was a big help with the noodles.

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The last quick side dish I made was peanut roasted broccoli with sunflower and sesame seeds. I roasted sprayed a tiny bit of olive oil on the broccoli and roasted it on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes on 350 degrees, turning the broccoli a few times so it browned evenly. When it came out of the oven I mixed it with a bit of peanut sauce.

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I mixed in a few sunflower seeds and topped it off with a few sesame seeds before serving.

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This is a quick and easy side dish that can go with any meal! Happy summer!

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The Strawberry Blondes get Engaged (celebratory Pina Colada Jell-O Shots)!

In case you missed the title of this post…I am engaged to be married! I apologize for the hiatus for the last few weeks but I have been out celebrating instead of at home coooking. What an amazing few weeks it has been.

It all started with the Figawi Race. The Figawi is a sailing race from Hyannis, on Cape Cod, to the island of Nantucket. This was our first year sailing in the race so we were nervous (well I was nervous) and excited. We rounded up a crew for the race of siblings and friends, packed up the coolers with food and lots of beer and set out for Nantucket on Saturday morning.

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There were over 200 sailboats sailing in the race. We placed 10th out of 15 boats in our division which was totally awesome for our first race. Little did I know the excitement had already just begun!

We partied all weekend on Nantucket. Sunday was Jon’s birthday so that morning we decided to take a walk out to Brant Point and have a nice little stroll with our coffees. Brant Point is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. It has a lighthouse on the tip of the point that you can see as you enter Nantucket Harbor.

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We were walking along the beach and sipping coffee when Jon suddenly put down his coffee and bent down on one knee. To say that I was surprised would be a huge understatement! I said “yes”. We strolled back to the boat and I got to announce the news to all my family and friends. Pretty much the best day of my life so far.

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Which brings me to the celebratory Jell-O shots! When I made the Jell-O shots pre-Figawi I figured we would be eating them to toast an awesome race but little did I know I would be celebrating an engagement!

We always have Jell-O shots at Figawi so I decided to make pina colada Jell-O shots – pineapple jello shots with coconut rum. YUM!

I used two boxes of pineapple Jell-O, Malibu rum and little plastic cups with lids. Mix Jell-O according to the package directions except for omit the cold water and replace with rum. The shots should have one part water and one part rum so that they aren't too strong.

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If you are looking for a great treat to bring to a party this summer try these pina colada Jell-O shots. You won’t be disappointed!

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Cheers!

The Strawberry Blondes make Zucchini Boats

Boating season is finally here! After a long, cold winter of dreaming about being back on the boat soaking up the sun – it is time to put the boat in the water. Jon and I have a 30 foot Catalina sailboat named Destiny. Last year was our first year with the boat so I am very excited for her second season.

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Destiny needed a lot of TLC this year. For the past month we have been working to get her ready to be put in the water. We scraped the bottom paint and repainted, worked on the engine (well…Jon did), and waxed the hull. She shined up like a new penny!

Tobes was very willing to help prepare Destiny for the 2014 season. He loves the boat. He has his own little Tobesmcgobes life jacket but on this particular day was feeling more like a human. Cannot stop laughing at these pictures.

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In celebration of the launch of Destiny, The Strawberry Blondes decided to cook zucchini boats. This is a simple and healthy way to have an Italian meal without all the carbs. It is delicious!

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All you need to make the boats is zucchini, marinara sauce, diced onion and ground turkey. Slice the zucchini in half and scoop out the seeds. Boil the zucchini for about 3 minutes to soften.

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I made a simple marinara sauce with the ingredients I had on hand:

Diced tomatoes in sauce (2 cans)
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
Fresh copped parsley
Dried Italian seasoning
Black pepper
I had a leftover Parmesan rind that I threw in for extra flavor

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Once the sauce was cooked I used a hand blender to purée it.

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Next saute half of a diced onion in olive oil and then add in the ground turkey. Now to create the boats! Line a baking pan with foil and then lay the zucchini in the pan. Cover the zucchini with the ground turkey and then top with sauce. I sprinkled Parmesan on the top too. Bake on 350 for 40 minutes.

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This is a simple and healthy recipe. It is also great for lunch the next day.

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Destiny is on her way. The Strawberry Blondes are ready for summer!

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Chicken Marsala

We had family over to our newly decorated apartment on Mother’s Day. It was such a gorgeous day. We had the windows open and let all the fresh air in! Jon and I are so lucky to have amazing Moms. And I am so lucky to be a mom to the crazy puppy, Tobesmcgobes. 😃 Tobes never fails to put a smile on my face.

Sunday was our first big family dinner in our new place so I wanted to make something special. I have never made chicken Marsala before which I guess was a little risky but it came out really good!

I mixed dried parsley and black pepper into 1/2 cup of flour on a plate. Next I coated chicken breasts with the flour and set them aside. To prep the rest of the dish I chopped half a Vidalia onion and sliced two packages of mushrooms. You also need butter, about a cup of chicken broth, chopped garlic, fresh chopped parsley and of course, a big cup of Marsala wine.

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First I heated olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in my Dutch oven and cooked the chicken until browned on each side. I removed the chicken from the pan and set it aside. I then added another tablespoon of butter and the onions and garlic to the pan. I sautéed the onions and garlic until the onions were soft. Next I added the mushrooms. I cooked the mushrooms until they gave off all their liquids and were browned.

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Next I added the Marsala wine to the pan and brought it to a boil. I reduced the wine and then added the chicken stock. I then let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes and then added a little more butter and black pepper.

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I cooked linguini to go along with the Marsala and also made a light salad with arugula, tomatoes, red onion and sunflower seeds. Garnish the Marsala with a little fresh chopped parsley too.

Everyone enjoyed the meal and I think our first little dinner party was a success. Strawberry cupcakes for dessert!

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Happy belated Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

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Strawberry Cupcakes

Sunday was one of my good friend’s birthday so I decided to make her cupcakes. I had these adorable flower cupcake papers that I knew would be perfect for a Spring birthday. I’m so happy spring is finally here! Jon and I have been enjoying cocktails outside on our roof deck and Toby has been going on extra long walks because it is finally warm enough to be outside!

For the Spring birthday cupcakes I used a regular vanilla box cake mix and mixed it according to the package directions. Add about two cups of frozen or fresh strawberries to a saucepan with a tablespoon of orange liqueur and a tablespoon of water. Cook on medium heat until the strawberries are soft. Blend the strawberries until puréed. Stir the strawberries into the cake mix, pour into the cupcake papers and bake according to the box directions (about 20 minutes).

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Now for the frosting! I had a container of low fat cool whip so I decided to make it into frosting. I added a whole box of confectioners sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cream, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and a bit of red food coloring to make pink frosting 🍰. Mix the vanilla and cream into the cool whip in a large bowl and then slowly add sugar until you reach a desired consistency. Cool whip melts so be sure to use enough sugar so your frosting doesn’t melt off your cupcakes. Be sure to let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting them as well.

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I hope you are enjoying Spring as much as we are!

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Guacamole and Salty Chihuahuas!

Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite days to celebrate because it’s a great excuse for margaritas! My Dad sent me a great recipe idea from cooking.com for a drink that originated in Chihuahua, Mexico and it is SO good! Of course I had to make guacamole to go along with the delicious drink. Jon and I are scarfing down the delicious treats!

Guac:
4 avocados mashed
Red onion, diced
Handful of grape tomatoes, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt

Mash the avocados with the cayenne and salt then mix in the lime juice and veggies. We had “hint of lime” tostitos.

For the salty chihuahua – makes two drinks:
1 1/2 cups of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
2 ounces of triple sec
4 ounces white tequila

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What The Strawberry Blondes Cooked this Week ðŸ“

It was a week of hanging up pictures and putting together furniture in our house this week. We have lived in our apartment for 4 months and are finally moving in for good! The weather was so crummy this week that Tobes didn’t really want to spend a lot of time outside so he spent his evenings in the kitchen with me. I found a great recipe for Tuscan pork chops with tomatoes and capers on myrecipes.com and decided to try it. My Dad had given me a big block of Swiss cheese and I had ham leftover from Jon’s lunches so I decided to make chicken cordon bleu. Each of these recipes were fairly simple to make and were really delicious.

For the Tuscan pork chops I used 2 boneless chops and trimmed off the fat. You also need about 1 tablespoon of capers, a few handfuls of grape tomatoes (or whatever tomatoes you have), olive oil, 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup of chicken stock.

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I also used about 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour with a little pepper mixed in to lightly bread the pork chops. All you need is a dusting of flour. Heat the olive oil in a skillet then saute the pork chops for about a minute on each side.

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Remove the chops from the pan. Next add the garlic to the pan and cook for about a minute. Then add the balsamic vinegar and chicken stock and stir thoroughly. Add the grape tomatoes (I like to slice them in half) and the capers, transfer the pork back into the pan, cover and simmer for about 5-6 more minutes.

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Tobes is obsessed with grape tomatoes. If I drop one he plays with it in the kitchen for 10 minutes before he figures out it’s something he can eat.

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I also made chicken cordon bleu with a side salad. All you need is two chicken breasts, a couple slices of ham, a few slices of Swiss cheese and some black pepper. Start out by pounding the chicken breasts until they are flat and thin. Lay the ham and the Swiss cheese on the chicken and roll up. Place the chicken in a heated skillet with a bit of olive oil. Make sure you put the chicken into the pan fold side down so it stays rolled up. Turn the chicken to the other side after about 6 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked remove it from the pan.

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Deglaze the pan with a little chicken broth and add a bit of thyme to the broth to make a light sauce. Let it simmer for a couple minutes then add the chicken back into the pan.

I made a quick side salad with my favorite dressing: lemon balsamic vinegar, a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Easter Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are something I have always wanted to make and I thought Easter weekend was the perfect opportunity. The buttery crust topped with a sweet lemon filling is just too good to resist. I used a Paula Deen recipe I found a while back so no, these are not low fat!

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Ingredients for the crust:
2 sticks of salted butter
2 cups flour
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp lemon zest ( I added this to the recipe because I cannot get enough of the lemon flavor

To prepare the crust, whisk the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Mix the room temperature butter into the mixture with your hands and form a crumbly dough. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and then butter the bottom of the foil. Spread the crumbly dough out evenly in the pan and push it down flat. Bake on 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool slightly.

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Ingredients for the filling:
6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons of flour
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined then pour over the crust. Bake on 350 degrees for another 30 minutes. Let the bars cool completely and then sprinkle them with a little more confectioners sugar.

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I had a fluffy Good Friday helper in the kitchen yesterday. 😃 He wanted to be in the picture too.

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What The Strawberry Blondes Cooked this Week ðŸ“

I have been traveling for work so much lately that I have had limited time to cook at home. Jon has been fending for himself in the meal department for the last few weeks and I think he was happy to have me home too. And of course Tobes loves when I am puttering around in the kitchen because inevitably something will fall on the floor for him to vacuum up!

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This week I baked a vanilla cake with mocha buttercream frosting for my Dad’s birthday. I also decided to make a chicken pot pie and a lasagna to have for lunches and dinner.

I found a classic vanilla cake recipe that you can obtain here from Food Network. I made a layer cake and followed the recipe exactly as it is stated.

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After the layers came out of the oven and cooled, I trimmed the bottom layer so the top layer would lay flat. I will admit my two layers did not come out the same width so make sure you distribute the batter evenly throughout pans. Not surprising that I was in a rush while making the cake so it explains the different sized layers.

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Next for my favorite part, the frosting! I adapted a recipe from Pioneer Woman on Food Network but added a few of my own touches to the mocha buttercream.

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Ingredients:
2 sticks of butter
5 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup kahlua
1/4 cup cold coffee

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The frosting recipe makes more than enough to frost both layers and I added chocolate sprinkles for decoration.

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My next meal was a chicken pie. We love the rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods because every week they are buy one get the second one half off. While I wish I had more time during the week to roast a chicken myself, I am happy to let Whole Foods do the work when we’re busy! I pull the chicken and use some of the breast meat and some of the thigh/drumstick meat. I had used the other chicken breasts for Jon’s chicken sandwich so the leftovers were just enough for the pie. I used 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 teaspoon of whole wheat flour, 2 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of water to make a quick gravy for the pie. Whisk the mixture together and it usually thickens up into gravy while it’s cooking in the pie. I use pre-made pie crust for the top layer, dust it with a little whole wheat flour and lay it over the filled pie dish. Bake on 350 degrees for about 40 minutes and you have a delicious chicken pie to eat all week long!

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I also made a small lasagna. I had a tub of fat free ricotta that was going to be past its prime so I decided lasagna was a simple and quick solution. I had no boil lasagna noodles and jarred tomato sauce from Whole Foods (which is actually really really good). I had some fresh basil leftover so I mixed that into the ricotta along with about 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. I don’t think it is necessary to use egg to hold a lasagna together so I omitted it.

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Hope you enjoy this week’s lineup. We enjoyed the cake as a family in my Mom’s beautifully decorated dining room. And of course Tobes has been loving all this beautiful spring weather we have been enjoying all week.

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Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Skewers

I was heading over to my sisters for dinner last Sunday night and I needed a quick appetizer. I decided to make my easy go-to app, caprese skewers. My Gram made me this gorgeous tomato runner for my birthday and Spring is almost here so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to use it!

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This is super simple to make. All you need are toothpicks, cherry or grape tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. I used my favorite pear balsamic glaze for these particular skewers because I wanted to add a little sweetness.

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All you need to do is add a piece of each ingredient on a toothpick and then drizzle with a bit of the balsamic before serving. A delicious and easy appetizer and a great idea when you need an app in a pinch. I cannot get enough of the vibrant colors in the tomato fabric.

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I spent the beginning of the week on a business trip in Utah and Tobes was kind enough to call me to check in. I love how he looks right at the phone 😃.

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