spanish paella

source: rachael ray | look + cook

i love spanish food & especially manchego cheese. this paella is delish served alongside polenta pan-fried & topped with grated manchego.

{paella with a side of sauteed spinach}

1 pound sausage links {hot or sweet, as desired}
3 cups chicken stock
2 pinches saffron threads
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into large pieces
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup orzo pasta {i use whole-grain}
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf 
1 cup rice {i use brown rice}
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound large deveined shrimp {i use already cooked shrimp}
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
fresh basil, cut into confetti strips

1. in a skillet with 3/4" water, bring to a boil & par-cook the sausages for 7-8 minutes.

2. in a medium saucepan, warm the stock & saffron.

3. in a large skillet over medium with the olive oil, season the chicken pieces with salt & pepper, & cook them for 2-3 minutes on each side. remove the chicken & set aside.

4. add the sausage to the large skillet to crisp up the casings for 2-3 minutes. remove & cut into large chunks.

5. to the same large skillet, add the butter.  once melted, add the orzo & toast for 2-3 minutes.

6. add the onions, garlic, & bay leaf to the orzo. season with salt & pepper, & cook for another 2-3 minutes.

7. add the rice & stir to combine. deglaze the pan with the wine & let reduce for 1 minute.

8. add the chicken, sausage, & saffron stock. cover & simmer for 15 minutes.

9. add the shrimp & tomatoes, & cook for 3-4 more minutes.

serve in the skillet topped with the basil confetti.

6 servings | 19 points+ each

cowboy cookies

source: carolina bible camp cookbook {2003}, becky cole

this is shaun's signature cookie!

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. in a mixer, cream together sugar & butter, then add egg & vanilla.

2. mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt.  add to sugar mixture, & mix until combined.

3. mix in by hand the oats, pecans, & chocolate chips.

4. roll into balls, & space 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.

5. bake 11-13 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through. cool on wire racks.

makes 2 dozen.



source: martha stewart

this has also been modified by me over the years to make it easier & quicker, & even more delicious! shaun spent a summer in greece, & he helped me fine tune this recipe.

1 large container plain yogurt {NOT lowfat!}
1-2 cucumbers, peeled & seeded
2-3 tablespoons dill {i use dried, but fresh is nice, too, just use more}
3-5 cloves garlic, minced {this is the one time i use my garlic press & think it matters}
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt, to taste

1. drain the yogurt using a large fine sieve lined with coffee filters for minimum 4 hours in the fridge. {you can buy greek yogurt which is already thicker, but this method is cheaper!}

2. in a food processor, add all ingredients & pulse until smooth. add more garlic & salt as desired. {we love it super-duper garlicky.}

serve with pita chips, chickpea fritters, london broil, or on gyros! also good with veggies.

chickpea fritters

source: martha stewart

this is modified from an old martha stewart magazine recipe. i've memorized it, so it's morphed over the years to be whatever i can remember to do. i've made it so much now, that this is what i tend to repeat each time i make it.

[pictured with tzatziki]

5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons cumin
2-3 pinches cayenne pepper
2 cans chickpeas {drained & rinsed}
1 egg
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 - 1/2 cup flour 

1. in a pan over medium-high heat, saute the onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender & slightly caramelized.

2. add sesame seeds, cumin, & cayenne, & saute another 1-2 minutes to develop the flavors.

3. in a food processor, add chickpeas, egg, lemon juice, & onion mixture.  pulse until smooth.

4. transfer chickpea mixture to a bowl, & add flour a few tablespoons at a time until able to make small patties. {will still be a little sticky.}

5. make small patties, approximately 2-3 inches across & 3/8" thick.

6. add patties as you make them to a saute pan over medium to medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons olive oil. {work in two batches, & add more olive oil as needed.} cook 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.

serve hot or room temperature. great with tzatziki!


gnocchi florentine

source: unknown

this is a super easy & quick meal to whip up when you don't have much time!

1 package gnocchi
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/2 pound ground beef
1 1/2 cup marinara sauce
1 {10 ounce} package frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry
salt & pepper

1. cook the gnocchi according to package directions.

2. in a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the olive oil, onion, garlic, & seasoning for 3 minutes.

3. add the beef & brown it.

4. stir in marinara sauce & spinach.  bring to a boil, then reduce heat & simmer 2-3 minutes.  salt & pepper to taste.

5. add the cooked & drained gnocchi, & cook until it has absorbed some of the sauce, for 2-3 minutes.

serve sprinkled with parmesan.

eggs in a basket

source: martha stewart living | september 2009

4 slices rustic bread, 1" thick
1/4 cup olive oil, for brushing & drizzling
8 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup grated/shaved parmesan

1. tear out the middle of each slice of bread to form a 1.5" hole.  arrange slices & middles on a baking sheet.  brush both sides & pieces with olive oil.

2. bake bread at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. {leave oven on.}

3. mix ricotta with salt & pepper & thyme.  spread onto bread slices, avoiding the hole.  drizzle with olive oil.

4. break 1 egg into each hole, & season with salt.  bake until egg whites are set, about 12 minutes.

5. top each slice with parmesan & toasted middle piece.

shrimp & corn chowder

source: real simple | february 2010

i've made some modifications to meet our likes & dislikes...

2 tablespoons butter {or olive oil}
2 leeks {white & light green parts}, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 ounces clam juice
1 cup milk {2%}
1 cup half-n-half
1 pound potatoes, peeled & chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon thyme
1 pound shrimp, cooked & deveined
1 can corn 
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. in a soup pot over medium heat, melt butter, then add leeks & garlic.  season with salt & pepper, & cook 4-5 minutes.

2. add wine & cook until reduced.

3. stir in flour & cook a couple minutes to create a roux.

4. add clam juice, milk, potatoes, & herbs.  bring to a boil.  reduce heat & simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes.

5. add shrimp, corn, & lemon juice.  cook until the potatoes are tender, another 3-5 minutes.

serve with a crusty bread!


chicken tortilla soup

source: danae original {sorta}

there is this amazing mexican restaurant in raleigh that serves the best chicken tortilla soup i've ever eaten - dos taquitos.  most of their menu offerings are very unique & not at all like the usual mexican restaurant in america.  all my friends that have travelled to mexico say it reminds them of the authentic cuisine of that country.

i made this recipe up based on my memory of the dos taquito soup.  i made a couple of ingredient additions {the cinnamon & honey} inspired by a rachael ray recipe for ancho chicken tortilla soup.

1 can corn, drained & dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bottle mexican beer {i used modelo negra}
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoon honey
2 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded {i boil them for 20-30 minutes & let them cool}
2 cups chicken stock
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper

- corn tortillas, cut into strips & baked till crisp
- oaxaca cheese, cubed {fresh mozzarella can be substituted}
- avocado, diced
- cilantro, finely chopped

1. in a soup pot on high heat, with NO oil, add the corn kernels.  let them char for a few minutes, stirring occasionally if needed.

2. add olive oil, onion, garlic, & pepper.  saute for a few minutes before adding spices, then saute for another 1-2 minutes.

3. add the beer & let cook down for 1-2 minutes.

4. add the tomatoes & honey.  stir to combine.  add the chicken & coat in the sauce.

5. add the chicken stock & lime juice.  salt & pepper to taste.  heat through.  {add more chicken stock or water if you like more liquid.}

{what it looks like in the pot before all the toppings}

serve in bowls with tortilla strips, cheese, avocado, & cilantro added as desired.

the cheese gets all melty & yummy, & the avocado also adds a creaminess that pairs excellently with the crunch of the tortilla strips.  this recipe might be even better than dos taquitos!


eggplant subs

source: rachael ray | 365: no repeats

1 cup italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large eggplant, thinly sliced
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten with a splash of water
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 jar roasted red peppers {16 oz.}, drained
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes {15 oz.}
salt & pepper
 4 sub rolls, split lengthwise
1 pound {smoked} fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1. combine bread crumbs, parmesan, sesame seeds, & 2 tablespoons olive oil.

2. dip eggplant slices in flour, then eggs, & then press firmly into breadcrumb mixture.

3. arrange eggplant on a baking sheet, & bake at 400 degrees for 15-17 minutes.

4. in a saucepan over medium heat, saute garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

5. puree roasted red peppers & tomatoes in food processor.

6. add pepper-tomato puree to garlic in saucepan, add salt & pepper, & heat through.

7. fill sub rolls with sauce, breaded eggplant, & mozzarella.  broil until cheese bubbles.

{the sauce made from roasted red peppers & fire-roasted tomatoes is delicious over any pasta or anywhere you would use a red sauce!}

4 servings | 15 points+ each



source: dr. jeff white | raleigh, nc

hummus is one of those things that can be gross if not properly seasoned.  one of shaun's colleagues back at nc state has traveled widely & makes a great mediterranean spread, & his hummus is the best!

2 cans chickpeas {15 oz. each}
6 tablespoons tahini {sesame paste}
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
coarse salt, to taste
1/4 cup water {if needed}

1. add all ingredients, except water, to a food processor.  pulse until pureed, streaming in water as needed to reach desired dippable consistency.

experiment with your lemon juice & cumin ratios to find your desired taste.  i love LOTS of cumin, maybe even more like 3 tablespoons.  you can also add garlic & onion powders/flavors.  for variation, you can add a roasted red pepper, too.

todd's best salsa

source: todd carpenter {real deal texan}

i do not like picante sauce.  i do not like store-bought salsa.  so when i was introduced to todd's salsa several years ago, i fell head-over-heels with it & did my best to eat the entire batch solo!  he gave me his recipe, which i have only modified in that i use less jalapenos.  todd loves everything to be call-the-fire-department hot, & while i can take the heat, i prefer to make it less inferno-ish for the casteel cafe!  still, mine is pretty spicy.  if you like mild salsa, make sure to de-rib & de-seed your jalapeno before putting it in. {and make sure to not touch your eyes!!!}

1 can whole peeled tomatoes {28 oz.}
1 sweet onion
1 jalapeno
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
coarse salt, to taste

1. chop onion & jalapeno into large chunks {i chop the onion into 6-8 pieces & the jalapeno into three}.  tear leafy part of cilantro off of the leafless stems.

2. put all ingredients into food processor. {put tomatoes in first because the liquid helps everything along.}

3. pulse salsa until well combined but not pureed.

4. taste, & adjust flavors {especially lime juice & salt} as desired.

enjoy with tortilla chips, veggies, over chicken - with anything!  {tastes best after sitting in the fridge at least one hour.}



source: rachael ray | look+cook

i've always wanted to try making this soup!  it gets pretty chilly here in the winter, so i find myself craving soup more regularly.  this should hit the spot!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4" dice
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 bay leaves {fresh or dried}
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
salt & pepper
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup soft sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 small bunch kale, destemmed & chopped
1 cup whole wheat ditalini {or other short cut pasta}
1 can chickpeas
grated parmesan

1. in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil & pancetta.  cook until crispy, 3-4 minutes.

2. add the carrots, celery, bay leaves, garlic, & onions.  season with salt & pepper.  cook until tender, 7-8 minutes.

3. add mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, stock, & 2 cups water, & bring to a boil.

4. ad the kale, pasta, & chickpeas.  cook until the pasta is al dente.

serve in bowls with grated parmesan on top.

chicken suizas quesadilla cake

source: rachael ray | look + cook

we love having quesadillas on wednesdays because they are so quick, yet still versatile, & we are always crunched for time before church!

6 tomatillos
1 medium onion, peeled & quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & halved
1 poblano pepper, seeded & quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
cooking spray
handful fresh cilantro
1 lime, zest & juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cumin
1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed & meat shredded
5 flour tortillas {8 inch}
3/4 cup creme fraiche {or sour cream}
2 cups shredded swiss cheese
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese

1. heat a grill pan or grill to medium-high heat.  preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. peel, rinse, & halve the tomatillos.  thread them on metal skewers with onion, peppers, & garlic.  coat with cooking spray.

3. grill vegetables 15 minutes, turning to cook evenly.  char the tortillas on each side, too.

4. put charred vegetables into a food processor.  add cilantro, lime zest & juice, honey, cumin, & salt.  pulse until it becomes a sauce.  {if too thick, add 1/3 cup water.}

5. put the shredded chicken into a large bowl, & pour the sauce over it.  toss to coat.

6. coat a cake pan with cooking spray.  layer one tortilla with one quarter of the chicken mixture, 4 dollops of creme fraiche, & the shredded cheeses.  continue layering in this manner, & top with the final tortilla.

7. coat the top with cooking spray, & place the pan into the oven {or hot grill with the lid down} to melt the cheese for 5 minutes.

8. place a plate over the pan, & invert the cake.  cut into four wedges to serve.

spanakopita orzo

source: rachael ray | look+cook

i love all things greek, so this has become a favorite part of my repertoire!

[with greek shish kabobs over top]

1/2 pound orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable stock
3 cups spinach
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt & pepper

1. bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, & cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions.

2. in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, onion, & garlic.  saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

3. add vegetable stock & 2 cups spinach to a food processor, & pulse until smooth.

4. add the puree to the onions & garlic, & heat through.

5. remove the pan from the heat, & stir in the orzo, the remaining whole leaves of spinach, & the feta.  season with salt & pepper.

serve with the greek shish kabobs!

greek shish kabobs

source: rachael ray | look+cook

i use london broil instead of lamb...

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper
2 pounds lamp top round, cut into bite-size cubes

1. preheat the broiler or a grill pan.

2. whisk together all ingredients except the meat.  toss the meat cubes in the mixture to coat.

3. thread the meat onto metal skewers {or bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 20 minutes}.

4. broil or grill the meat until seared & cooked to medium, 2-3 minutes per side.

serve alongside spanakopita orzo!