Italian Salad with Pears, Shaved Parmesan, and Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

This beautiful Italian salad combines pears, shaved Parmesan and honey-balsamic vinaigrette.

I’m always looking for new salad combinations, especially since I’ve somehow become the go-to salad person for our family get-togethers. Two things I’ve learned about making a good salad are 1) you need a balance of flavors and textures, and 2) you can always look to Italian cuisine for inspiration. This Italian salad with pears, shaved Parmesan and honey-balsamic vinaigrette is a perfect blend of sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors, with a variety of textures from tender salad greens to juicy pears to crunchy toasted pine nuts.

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Winter Minestrone with Sausage, Kale, and Basil Pistou

Winter minestrone with sausage, kale, and basil pistou is guaranteed to become one of your family's favorite soups!

We’re having a January cold spell, and right now the temperature outside is a whopping 6 degrees. Which means my family wants nothing but soup for dinner. One of our all-time favorites is this winter minestrone with sausage, kale, and basil pistou. It’s packed with bold flavor and healthy veggies.

This red, green and white soup is a Christmas Eve tradition in our family, so sometimes I call it “Christmas minestrone.” We usually don’t have a heavy dinner Christmas Eve, because we’ve already stuffed ourselves at an annual family party during the day. After celebrating with a million and one relatives, we go home, make some minestrone, and play board games until it’s time to hang our stockings.

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Creamy Tomato Basil Soup With Orzo

Creamy tomato basil soup with orzo is one of the best soups you will ever make!

One thing I love about fall is the return of soup season! One of the first soups I make every year when the weather turns cooler is this creamy tomato basil soup with orzo, which is based on a ready-made soup from Costco. It’s probably my favorite “Costco hack” recipe. I’ve made this soup dozens of times – for my family, for company or for potlucks – and people always ask me for the recipe.

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Sun Dried Tomato Walnut Pesto

Yum! This sun dried tomato pesto is packed with Italian flavors!

Italian, Sauces, Snacks | September 21, 2016 | By

Anyone who knows me knows I love Italy and Italian food. My husband’s family is Italian on his mother’s side. Recently his Italian immigrant great grandparents were honored with a historic plaque at the site of their former farm, now a city park. It was a great time for the family to get together, celebrate Italian heritage, and eat Italian food. Everyone brought snacks and appetizers, and I decided to make this sun dried tomato walnut pesto. This pesto is irresistible! The bold, bright flavors of sun dried tomatoes and fresh herbs perfectly complement the rich, mellow flavors of walnuts and olive oil.

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Crock-Pot Honey Balsamic Chicken and Carrots

Flavorful honey balsamic chicken and carrots reach tender perfection in the crock-pot.

This summer has been absolutely crazy at our house, with one daughter moving to another state, another daughter getting married, and a major renovation (still not finished) for the kitchen. I’ve been pulling out all my easiest, quickest and tastiest recipes to try to keep everybody fed during the chaos. This crock-pot honey balsamic chicken with carrots is perfect for busy days. It’s a main dish and side dish all in one, with fabulous flavors the whole family loves.

Balsamic vinegar, honey and chili oil bring huge flavors to simple chicken breasts and baby carrots.

The key to this recipe is one of my favorite flavor combinations: balsamic vinegar and honey. Add a touch of garlic and a little bit of red chili oil, and you have a subtly sweet sauce with a depth of flavor that perfectly complements chicken and carrots.

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Pesto Rice with Chicken, Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Pesto Rice with Chicken, Tomatoes and Pine Nuts, a 6-ingredient Costco hack you can make in 30 minutes! Quick, easy and ultra-tasty!

I love cooking from scratch, especially on weekends when I have a little extra time. But most nights, I’m scrambling to come up with a healthy, tasty dinner, and it feels like a real challenge. That’s why I’ve developed a few recipes I call “Costco hacks,” which means they’re put together quickly with basic ingredients from my favorite warehouse store. This pesto rice is a go-to recipe I’ve made many times.

This dish has been a big hit at our house with adults and kids alike. The brown rice absorbs huge flavor from the pesto and lemon juice, grape tomatoes add freshness, pine nuts add richness and crunch, and cooked chicken turns the whole thing into a substantial entree. The recipe requires only 6 basic ingredients and 30 minutes to make, if you have chicken and rice already cooked.

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Very Veggie Marinara Sauce

Very Veggie Marinara Sauce is easy, economical and full of fresh vegetables.

There’s something so satisfying about a plate of pasta with a hearty, flavorful marinara sauce. It’s a meal that can be put together in a hurry, when you’re low on groceries or have no idea what to make, and it’s inexpensive but still delicious. 

When my husband and I were dating, he pretty much lived on pasta. At the time, we were both waiting tables at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and they gave us a free plate of pasta every shift. I’m pretty sure he would have eaten spaghetti and pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. His Italian mama made him spaghetti at home, too, always with her homemade sauce.

Over the years, I’ve developed my own marinara sauce recipe, and I usually make it using the pressure cooker or Crock-Pot. My recipe uses carrots and celery in addition to tomatoes, onions and garlic, with a touch of extra virgin of olive oil. I love having this sauce on hand, to top pasta, grilled chicken or zucchini noodles, or to use as a dip for breadsticks. You can also use it for baked pasta dishes like Allie’s Baked Caprese Tortellini.

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Baked Caprese Tortellini

Baked Caprese Tortellini - you're only 6 ingredients and 30 minutes away from your new favorite pasta recipe.

Ok folks, I just might have a new favorite pasta recipe. This Baked Caprese Tortellini is super cheesy, delicious, and simple. Caprese and tortellini are two of my favorite things, so it just makes sense to bring them together into one cheesy skillet of deliciousness.  It only requires 6 ingredients and can be made start to finish in about 30 minutes.

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Easy Garlic Parmesan Chicken

This Garlic Parmesan Chicken is a quick and easy weeknight dinner, no tedious breading required!

This Easy Garlic Parmesan Chicken is on my meal plan this week, and it’s one of my favorite quick and easy chicken recipes. I love making chicken breasts or cutlets for dinner because they’re so simple and versatile, but they don’t always turn out great. They dry out easily, and can sometimes be lacking in flavor. This recipe is great because it’s an easy weeknight dinner that’s a lot more flavorful than most chicken breast recipes, and doesn’t get dried out. The marinade is to die for, and it has a wonderful garlic-y, fresh flavor.

So, what makes this recipe especially easy? Instead of breading each piece of chicken by hand, you just have to quickly toast the breadcrumbs, then use them to top the chicken breasts. You don’t have to go through all the dipping and breading but you still get the satisfying texture and flavor of the breadcrumbs.

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Better-Than-Olive-Garden Copycat Italian Dressing

Better-Than-Olive-Garden Copycat Dressing is easy to make and tastes even better than the real thing.

Ranch is the most popular salad dressing in the United States, but at our house Italian salad dressing is a lot more popular. It’s probably because my husband’s family is half Italian (on his mother’s side), and they love to celebrate their Italian roots. Early in my marriage, I learned that the secret to my mother-in-law’s wonderful “homemade” salad dressing was Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s pretty good made according to the package directions, but I think it can be improved on just a little bit. It’s the basis for this Better-Than-Olive-Garden Copycat Italian Dressing recipe.

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