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Food brings our  family together. My mom can make the best country comfort food you could ever want. And I have a few dishes that the family begs for, such as jambalaya, beef stew, stroganoff, and curry.

This weekend we received an unexpected visit from my daughter, who lives away at college.  Friday evening, I heard a voice say, “Hey, you need a haircut!” to which my husband replied, “Yes I do!”  I looked up and there was my beautiful daughter, Allyson, whom I thought I wouldn’t see for another three weeks! It was so good to see her, and she spent so much time with us (instead of her friends)! It was a great weekend.

Saturday we went shopping with her. We went to the grocery store and bought stuff for “KFC Bowls” to have for dinner at my daughter’s insistence.  Here’s our recipe for Homemade KFC Bowls:

  • homemade mashed potatoes
  • popcorn chicken
  • canned corn
  • gravy (chicken gravy or brown gravy, whichever you prefer)
  • grated cheddar cheese

Layer the above items in your bowl, begging with the potatoes, then the chicken, etc. in your bowl and pour brown gravy (or at my mom’s insistence, chicken gravy) over all.  Garnish it with the grated cheddar cheese.

This has always been one of our very favorite family meals, and it was the first time in a long time where I found my whole family (less my oldest daughter, who was at work) at the dining room table.

On Sunday, my mother made an awesome lunch of baked pork chops and stuffing. Wow, what a feast! Here’s Mom’s recipe for her yummy concoction:

  • 2-3 lbs of pork steak, or pork roast, your preference
  • 3 boxes of stuffing mix, your preference – make per directions on box
  • Extra-virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sage

Sear the meat in EVOO and season with sea salt, pepper and sage. Then layer them in a well-oiled roasting pan with stuffing, then meat, and topped off with more stuffing.  Roast it at 350 degrees F for a half hour, then turn it down to 200 degrees F until ready to eat.

We also had corn and peas.

We called everyone to dinner, but strangely enough, only the women showed up. So, my mom, my two daughters, and I enjoyed this wonderful feast together. We mentioned several times the guys didn’t know what they were missing!

As soon as we were done eating, dessert came out of the oven. It was a simple box brownie mix, but we smelled it for a while, and we all had sweettooths after such a great meal.  So my mom frosted the brownies and cut them. My oldest daughter asked, “Do we have any ice cream?” and I answered, “Yes we do!” I got out the sundae bowls, and we layered ice cream, a hot brownie, and more ice cream. We all agreed it was one of the best desserts ever, as simple as it was.

And the thing that made it the most special is the love we share.

Salmon with Red Pepper Pesto

You will Need:

  • 4 (6-ounce) fresh or frozen sustainable salmon fillets (such as wild Alaskan)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • Cooking spray (any kind)
  • 1/3 cup chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 whole blanched almonds
  • 1 garlic clove (you can blanch the garlic by placing it in boiling water for 1 minute if you don’t like biting into raw garlic)

Place grill pan on medium-high heat, spray pan with cooking spray to avoid sticking. Evenly sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt onto your pieces of fish. Place fish in pan and cook each side for 4 minutes or until you feel the fish is done.
To make the pesto sauce: Combine the rest of the salt (1/4 teaspoon), peppers, tomato paste, olive oil, almonds and garlic into a blender or food processor until the mixture is smooth.

Serve the pesto over the fish. Add a side salad for a complete meal.

Chicken Fajitas

3 Simple Dinner Ideas You Will Need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, or a combination, cored and sliced
  • Salt, if desired
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili powder, or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) roasted whole chicken, chopped (you can use a store-bought rotisserie chicken already cooked or frozen chicken strips to save time)
  • 8 (8-inch) flour tortillas

Suggested toppings: salsa, sliced avocado or prepared guacamole, sour cream, sliced green onions, cheese, and jalapenos.

Roast whole chicken with seasonings of your choice or cut up rotisserie chicken to small pieces or cook frozen chicken strips according to package instructions.

Use a large skillet coated with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, heat over medium-high heat. Cook onion, bell pepper and optional salt for 3 minutes. Add in the seasonings and cook for an additional minute or until the vegetables reach the desired tenderness. After removing from the heat, mix in the lime juice and cilantro into the vegetables to taste.

Oil, lime juice and cilantro can be whisked together and drizzled over the chicken as a dressing.

Follow package instructions to heat tortillas.

Arrange the vegetables, tortillas, chicken and preferred toppings onto separate plates and allow individuals to fix their own tasty fajitas.

Rice Noodles with Sesame-Ginger Flank Steak

You Will Need:

  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, divided
  • 1 (1-pound) flank steak, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup (1/4-inch) slices red bell pepper strips
  • 1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 4 cups hot cooked rice noodles (about 8 ounces uncooked noodles)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

image_20151005_162027_5Cook rice noodles according to package instructions and set aside. Combine the rice vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, cornstarch, sugar, ginger, salt and garlic until the sugar dissolves.

Over medium-high heat, heat a large skillet (nonstick) with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Cook half of the steak for 4 minutes or until brown and remove from pan and set aside. Repeat this method with the remaining steak. Cook the carrots, snap peas, bell pepper and bean sprouts in the pan with the vinegar mixture for 3 minutes and stir frequently. Add cooked steak and noodles into pan to cook for 1 minute, stir continuously. Onions and toasted sesame seeds can be added at this time or once on a plate ready to serve.

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