chicken and shrimp kabobs

Kabob dinner

My husband wanted an easy dinner.  That meant he didn’t want a lot of clean up.  We both went through our mental Rolodex (do they make those anymore?) of what we had eaten the last few times together as a family, and since we had recently covered the meat and pasta thing pretty well, I suggested kabobs and brown rice.  I had also been wanting to sneak shrimp back into meals, after my family had boycotted them for some reason, and felt this was a good opportunity to do so.  I got out all my metal grilling sticks, and all the ingredients on the counter and was ready to “throw this together”.  The problem with kabobs and “throwing this together”, is when a Type A personality has to make them.  Give a controlling, detailed oriented, anal retentive person a stick, and tell them to figure out a pattern using a variety of vegetables, shellfish and chicken – you are not setting yourself up for an “easy dinner”.  You are setting yourself up for wondering why it is 8:15, the grill hasn’t been lit yet, and you’re trying to make sure you don’t have an oddball kabob with an uneven amount of zucchini on it.  Oh and there are to be NO helpers in making the kabobs, because everyone else does it wrong.  This last go-round, my darling husband noticed that my kabobs looked color coded and mentioned something about being hungry, which was totally lost on me in the heat of spacing my chicken on the stick at 1/8″ spacing increments, so that they didn’t touch (so the heat circulated…a Bobby Flay tip gone to my head).  I saw my husband trying to put a green bell pepper with a red grape tomato, and it took all I had not to stab his hand.  He could sense the rework of the kabob that was about to take place, and so he chose to find another sporting event on television he otherwise would not watch, until my tetris-like kabobs were completed.
I don’t know what it is.  I like kabobs, and on the surface, they should be easy.  I guess it’s just me.  So I make sure I leave plenty of time to assemble, in case I am having one of those days where six grape tomatoes is just right on a stick and seven is too many.  Over the years, I have had plenty of experiences with the chicken being too dry, the mushrooms burnt to little nuggets and the squash raw, so at least now I know to put like items on a stick.  Armed with this information has made both kabob assembly and grilling a bit smoother, and my man looking at me a bit less like a crazy woman.  (Ok that will never change, but he married me!)

more veggiesveggie kabobs

chicken and shrimp kabobs:

1  lb. shrimp, shelled (I like the 26-30 ct size)
4  chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
8  oz package cremini mushrooms, halved if large
1  medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4″ thick pieces
1  medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 3/4″ thick pieces
1  package grape tomatoes
1  large Vidalia onion, cut into 1″ chunks
1  green bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1  large red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1  head radicchio, halved and cut into wedges
3  lemons
1  16 oz. bottle Ken’s Lite Caesar dressing
metal or wooden skewers
Louisiana Hot Sauce

chicken and shrimp

get started on the kabobs:

Place the chicken and shrimp in a medium bowl or in a resealable bag.  Add half the bottle of caesar dressing.  Toss to coat.  Place all the vegetables except for the radicchio in a large bowl and add the remaining dressing.  Toss to coat.  Let everything marinate for 15 – 30 minutes.  If using wooden skewers, you need to pre-soak them so they don’t burn on the grill.  Light your grill and oil the grates.  Start skewering like items.  Skewer all the chicken together – leaving a small bit of space in between so it cooks evenly.   Then the skewer the shrimp – I skewer through the tail and then again through the body of the shrimp so they stay more secure.  Then skewer the squash together, and so on.  Add the radicchio and the onions onto skewers. You can even throw the lemons on a stick or directly on the grill.  Use them afterward to juice onto all the grilled meat and veggies.

skewersmushrooms and onions
Place the chicken skewers and squash skewers on the grill first.  After a few minutes, add the remaining vegetable skewers.  After turning the chicken and veggies, add the shrimp skewers.  Do not use leftover marinade from shrimp and chicken to baste anything on the grill – but you can use anything left over from the veggie bowl.  Take food off the grill as it reaches its level of doneness.  Use a cooking thermometer to check the chicken – 155 degrees it can come off the grill and under some foil to finish cooking.
Cook up some brown rice or couscous and squeeze the lemons and shake on some hot sauce, and you have fed 4 hungry people easy.

 grilled veggiesfoiled up

dig in

note: feeds four with leftovers.


italian sausage tortellini soup

Tortellini Soup

Summer vacation is over and school is back in session, so it is time for my behind to get into the swing of dinner planning with the onslaught of homework, practices, and oh yeah…life.  Some people treat the new year as a time for resolutions, but my resolutions have always come during vacation time.  I always seem to reflect over that time as to what I can do better or change when I get back.  This year on vacation, I decided that it was a goal of mine to really try and plan better for a variety of breakfasts for my kids as well as dinner, since it is often just the three of us eating.  I will always have my boxes of mac and cheese at my disposal, but I really wanted to try and cook for all of us this year and not for just the kids.  But cooking dinner for just three people, two of whom are under 5 feet tall, is another task.  It requires being able to chop onions and trying to remember (and explain) what makes a prime number prime.  It also, at times, has you stirring at the stove, all the while instilling fear of what’s to come, because someone was mimicking her brother and so he decided to retaliate with a body slam.  I love dinner time during the week.  It’s chaotic.  But it is a time to savor.  You learn so much just sitting and talking.  So that is what drives me to plan better, and hope that all the other commitments don’t get in the way (I know I am dreaming).  So after doing the guilty pleasure this weekend of perusing Pinterest (I really feel guilty at the amount of time you spend on that site!), I found a recipe that I knew the kids and I would like because of the tortellini, so I made it this week.  I loved this soup, and it doesn’t suck up all the broth like some do after putting it in the fridge.  I definitely would make this again – and hope that no body slams or nerf injuries occur next time I make it.

italian sausage tortellini soup (adapted from

1  lb. italian sausage, mild or hot
2  TB olive oil
1  medium onion, chopped
3  cloves garlic, minced
2  tsp dried basil
1  medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, chopped into quarter rounds
1  bay leaf
crushed red pepper
kosher salt and pepper
8  cups chicken stock
2  (15) oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1  lb frozen chopped leaf spinach, thawed
2  (9) oz pkg of refrigerated tortellini
grated Parmesan cheese – optional

italian sausagechopped onion

get started on the tortellini soup:

In a large pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil.  Remove the casings from the sausage and place in the pot.  With a wooden spoon, break apart the sausage into bite size pieces.  Brown the sausage until almost cooked through.  Add the chopped onion, garlic and dried basil.  Cook until the onions are turning opaque, about 4 minutes.

Add in the zucchini, bay leaf, a couple pinches of crushed red pepper (amount depends if you use mild or hot sausage), salt and pepper to taste.  Stir everything to combine.  Add broth and the diced tomatoes and simmer for 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the thawed spinach and stir.  Taste broth and adjust seasoning if needed.

zucchinisausage mixture

Add the tortellini and cook until the tortellini is tender, 8 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and serve.

soup mixturetortellini at the top

note:  this serves 6-8 people.  Garnish with cheese and enjoy!

bowl of soup

stovetop sausage mac and cheese

spoonful of mac

I have now officially entered the world of children’s sports, and have seen how it can suck out every last bit of sanity that one person might have.  I thought I was an organized person.  I thought wrong.  I thought I was able to balance work, laundry, homework, dinner, and of course, their practice and game schedule in addition to all the things I wanted to accomplish during the course of the day.  I thought wrong again.  Did I mention seeing my husband?  It’s May and I haven’t started my garden.  I vowed to walk the dog more, but that isn’t happening.  My daughter has a storage box on the floor in her room, with all her summer clothes in it, because I haven’t been able to go through her drawers and remove all her winter gear.  My son keeps losing his baseball socks, so trips to Dicks Sporting Goods is like an everyday occurrence it seems.  How often do you wash his protective cup anyway?  My hair is down to my mid back because I haven’t made myself a haircut appointment, so it is piled on top of my head, and I am beginning to look like Marge Simpson.  I guess I could go on, but it happens to everyone so I’ll get over it.   The craziness of spring sports won, and I lost.  I really had faith that my color-coded Sharpie calendar and Excel spreadsheet would carry me through the season, but no amount of appointment reminders or carpooling matters when you realize that your son’s equipment is in your husband’s car and all you have in the fridge is butter and margarita mix.
So last week, after an afternoon of soccer and baseball, I kaboshed the request for fast food for dinner, as I normally do, because I realized I had the makings for this stovetop macaroni and cheese.  Ok so it isn’t that far from fast food, but in my mind it was a home-cooked meal and that is all that mattered.  I was very pleased with myself for about a half hour, until I realized that they all had games the next day and I had to go and wash more uniforms.  Little victories…little victories…

stovetop sausage mac and cheese  (adapted from Cooking Light)

8  oz. turkey sausage, or a mix of italian mild and hot sausage (about 4 links)
6  roasted bell peppers from a jar, chopped
2 1/2  cups low-fat milk
4  TB flour
8  oz shredded reduced-fat mexican style shredded cheese (or cheddar)
1/2  cup reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1  tsp onion powder
1/2  tsp garlic powder
kosher salt and pepper
1  lb. elbow macaroni, cooked

roasted peppers

get started on the mac and cheese:

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add kosher salt, and cook macaroni until almost done.  Remove macaroni and drain.

pastasausage and peppers

Heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat and add sausage.  Remove casings from the sausage and break up in the pan into bite sized pieces and sauté for 5 minutes or until browned.  Add roasted peppers to the pan and cook for a minute longer.  Combine milk and flour in a bowl, and stir with a whisk.  Add milk mixture to the pan and bring to a boil while stirring.  Reduce heat to medium.  Stir in cheeses, onion powder and garlic powder until cheeses melt, stirring constantly.  Stir in pasta.

stirring the mac

note – this makes a lot.  I served it as a side dish a few days later by adding some to muffin cups and baking it at 375 for about 15 minutes.  Use cooking spray!

muffin macbaked mac