No Cook Dinner

Smoked Salmon Pitas

It has been HOT and muggy here in Orange County. It’s always right about now that I really start to crave fall weather. I love cooking (and eating)  soups, stews, and chiles all throughout fall and winter. One pot meals are my favorite! But alas…the forecast tells me that it will be in the 80’s and 90’s for the next few days :(. I will patiently wait for fall weather, and in the meantime make a few more warm weather meals like this one.

I made some tzatziki and hummus, but you could buy those at the market if you want to get this on the table even quicker. If you want to make them from scratch (home made ALWAYS tastes better than the store bought stuff), you can use this recipe for hummus. For the tzatziki, I use this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa. The only changes I make to her tzatziki is that I don’t use the sour cream…I don’t think it really needs it, and I don’t bother to strain the yogurt. 

If you are not a fan of smoked salmon, you could substitute some good roast chicken breast from the deli. If you do use smoked salmon or lox, try to find wild salmon. It really does taste better than farm raised salmon.

I love that this dinner doesn’t involve using the stove or the oven!

I used pitas, but this would be great in a wrap also. I always have a jar of roasted red peppers in my pantry. They are great to dress up a sandwich. The capers and olive tapenade are delicious additions too.

Smoked Salmon Pitas

  • Pita Bread, Lavosh, or Wraps
  • Smoked Wild Salmon
  • Tzatziki Sauce
  • Hummus
  • Lettuce or spinach
  • Optional Additions: Capers, Olive Tapenade, Roasted Red Peppers
  • Lemon Wedges for garnish

Arrange all of your ingredients on a platter. Toast your pitas if desired. Let family (or friends) stuff their own pitas according to their taste.

Heirloom Tomato Pizza

Funny thing about growing tomatoes…you get a lot of them. Then…you gotta use them up! Even when I don’t feel like cooking dinner and I am thinking about picking up take-out from somewhere, I look at the pile of tomatoes in the kitchen and think…I gotta make something with those tomatoes. So for tonight, I figured a pizza would be quick and easy and good for using up a few tomatoes. And there is the fact that I can eat pizza any old time and be pretty darn happy. This dinner is so simple…you don’t even need a recipe!

The tomato that we have the most of right now is “Green Zebra”. Check these beauties out! I used a combo of these and the “Druzba” variety that we grew.

Plump, red, sweet & juicy “Druzba” heirloom tomatoes

I started with a pre-made crust (I wanted a super quick, effortless dinner!). Next I put a clove of garlic through my trusty garlic press and mixed it with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I spread the garlicky-olive oil goodness on the crust, followed by some freshly chopped basil. I topped that with a little shredded mozzarella, prosciutto that I tore into pieces, my sliced heirloom tomatoes, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, some dollops of creamy goat cheese, and a sprinkle of grated parmesan. Super simple and OH SO DELICIOUS!!

After it came out of the oven, I added a little more freshly torn basil on top. With a fairly large glass of wine, this was a perfect meal!

Garden Tomatoes & My Heirloom Tomato Pasta

Serious Tomato Heaven!!

After many trials and tribulations, my husband has successfully grown some heirloom tomatoes. It was way more work (blood, sweat, tears and a few choice words), than he thought it would be…but WELL worth it! If you haven’t had a home-grown tomato, whether it be from your garden, a friend’s, or the farmer’s market, you really don’t know what at tomato is supposed to taste like. These little wonders are the JUICIEST of Bites!

We have a nice variety and they are all so delicious. We ordered our plants from Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato Plants in Lomita, CA. She has an amazing selection of organic heirloom tomatoes and they came shipped to us carefully nested in a box in perfect condition at the beginning of Spring. She has also helped my husband with a lot of his questions on what to do about pests and other issues that can be a problem when you grow tomatoes. He found the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen munching on his leaves. We lovingly named him Phatapilla, and found him a home far away from the tomato plants. Here is a run down of what we are growing…

Paul Robeson…Laurel’s favorite (from Laurel’s Heirloom Tomatoes)

Green Zebra…sweet and tangy. My son Max’s favorite.

These little guys are to die for. So sweet!

Our backyard garden. I take NO credit for this…It’s all my hubby. I’m so proud of his first crop!

These tomatoes are so tasty sliced up with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt & pepper. I made a pasta dinner with them last night and they were definitely the star of the dish. Heirlooms aren’t the tomato you would want to make a sauce with. I think their flavor shines the most when they are left uncooked. For this super simple summer dinner all I did was chop up a few of the tomatoes (cut the little cherries in half) and “marinate” them in some really good olive oil with a little minced garlic, chopped basil and Italian parsley, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. The tomatoes give off some of their juices and create the most delicious sauce to toss your warm pasta in. Top that with some shaved aged Parmigiano-Reggiano…absolute heaven. I seriously could eat that pasta every day. Amazing flavor and so simple.

Heirloom Tomato Spaghetti

Serves 4 (with a little left over if you are lucky)


  • combination of heirloom tomatoes – about 4 medium-large tomatoes mixed with some cherry tomatoes (I ended up with about 4 cups of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup of good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 2-3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti
  • Parmesan or Romano for serving

Roughly chop the bigger heirlooms and cut small tomatoes in half. Be careful to save any juice that they give off onto the cutting board. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, basil, parsley, garlic and salt & pepper in a large bowl. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes (mine sat for about 45 min). In a large pot of well salted boiling water, cook your spaghetti until al-dente. Before you drain, reserve a little of the pasta water. Drain and toss with the tomatoes. If it is a little dry, you can add some of your reserved pasta water. Taste for seasoning…you may need more salt and pepper. 

Serve with freshly shaved cheese and extra chopped basil.

Do you have a favorite heirloom tomato? Or how about a recipe that uses them? Would love to hear from you!

Easy Jambalaya

This dinner came out of my quest to find something to make with this yummy chicken andouille sausage that I had sampled at a local store (Hanson’s Market for my SC peeps). I was “hungry” shopping so of course it tasted like the best sausage I had ever eaten. I have never been the type of cook that makes dinner with a protein, a carb, and a veggie all separate on a plate. Not that we never eat that way… I just usually lean towards cooking one pot type dishes. Since the sausage had a little spice…Jambalaya seemed like a logical way to go. I had never made it before so I searched for a recipe on Food Network’s site and found a good one from Anne Burell. I love that Food Network has reviews so you can see if people were actually successful with the recipe and if they liked it or not. This one got great ratings so I went for it and only had to change a couple of things. You can check out the original recipe at: Anne Burrell’s Gulf Shrimp Jambalaya.

I cut the size of the recipe down a little to suit my family. I also added less heat so the kids could eat it. Anne makes her own shrimp stock in her recipe, I went with chicken stock for mine…no time on a Tuesday night for home made shrimp stock 🙂

I used red and yellow peppers instead of green. I really don’t like green bell peppers. My husband and son love them, but since I’m the chef they get vetoed.






I added parsley to mine. I add parsley to pretty much everything.



The onions, celery, peppers, garlic & sausage gettin’ to know each other in the pot.



Yes…I took pictures of my bay leaves in a bowl. I’m trying to be “artsy” like other bloggers.




Using a little kitchen twine to bundle up some thyme is much quicker than pulling all the little leaves off and chopping it up.



Easy Jambalaya


  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound andouille sausage or polish sausage cut into rounds (I used a 14 ounce package and it was plenty)
  • 2 bell peppers of your choice, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Kosher salt
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (this makes it medium-spicy. For spicy, go with 1 teaspoon. For mild, use 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 bundle fresh thyme
  • 1 pound medium gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped Italian Parsley
  • sliced green onion for garnish


Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add the andouille and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the sausage starts to brown. Add the peppers, celery, and onion to the pan, season with salt and a pinch crushed red pepper. Cook 7 to 8 minutes or until the mixture has softened and is very aromatic. Toss in the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and cayenne. Stir in the rice.

Add 3 cups of chicken stock, bay leaves, and thyme bundle. Season with salt and taste it to make sure you are on the way to something delicious. Bring to a simmer over medium/high heat, then cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes or until rice is fully cooked (don’t lift the lid during this time).

Stir in the shrimp, cover and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve garnished with chopped scallions.

Super Quick Fish Tacos

This is one of those dinners that you can throw together in just a few minutes. A life saver when you can’t start dinner until everyone in the house is already starving. I was in my local Trader Joe’s today and sampled their fish taco demo. I was starving, so of course it tasted like something from a 5 star restaurant. I decided that I would make them for dinner since we had a busy afternoon with Jiu Jitsu and golf lessons and I knew I would be starting dinner late. I made a couple of changes…of course. I can’t seem to make anything without changing it up a bit. I also would have added avocado if I had it…it would have been the perfect topper.

I love this Battered Halibut. Cooks in a short time in my toaster oven and it’s very tasty. Nothing artificial like you might find in your typical “fish stick”. I used one box for dinner which makes 7 tacos. This fed me and my 2 boys with no left overs (my husband is out of town). They LOVED these tacos and were fighting for the last one. If you need to feed a family of 4 or 5, you will need 2 boxes of fish or maybe a side dish like a black bean and corn salad.

Trader’s now carries these yummy corn and wheat blend tortillas that I have seen in other markets. They have a great chewy texture and the bonus with TJ’s is that they have less preservatives than the ones you will find in the grocery store.

This was TJ’s great idea…using broccoli slaw instead of cabbage in the tacos. It adds such great crunch!

This was my addition…I’m obsessed with this yogurt dip. So creamy and yummy and way less fat than the sour cream that TJ’s used for their tacos.

I mixed this Salsa Verde in with the yogurt dip.

I added some fresh chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice.

This makes a tangy, zippy, creamy, and delicious sauce for the broccoli slaw.

Then all you have to do is heat your tortillas…

And make your tacos!

Fish Tacos a la Trader Joes


  • 1 box of Trader Joe’s Battered Halibut
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s Corn and Wheat Tortillas
  • 2 1/2 cups of Trader Joe’s Organic Broccoli Slaw
  • 1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s Cilantro and Chive Yogurt Dip (or sub sour cream)
  • 1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde
  • a handful of fresh chopped cilantro
  • a squeeze of fresh lime juice

Cook Halibut according to package directions. In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt dip, salsa verde, lime juice, and cilantro until well blended. Add the broccoli slaw and mix to combine. Heat your tortillas and assemble with one piece of the fish and a couple spoonfuls of the broccoli slaw. Top with extra cilantro if desired.

An essential part of my dinner…

Monday Night’s Dinner

Turkey and White Bean Chili with Cilantro Quinoa

Let me start by saying that I’m starting to feel a tiny bit of pressure with this blog! I feel like I have to keep up some level of creativity in the kitchen so that I have something to post. This is good, I guess, except for when I’m not feeling very creative. So…this brings me to Monday night’s dinner. I had some ground turkey I needed to use and was in the mood for chili. I know just about everyone has a chili recipe they use  but this one is a little different and it was very tasty. It’s an easy and healthy week night meal idea.  I served it with a yummy  Caesar Salad with home-made corn bread croutons (Well…sort of home-made. The cornbread was Marie Calendar’s Instant mix. It WAS a weeknight after all). To keep it easy I used a bottled dressing that I added a little fresh cilantro to. I do have a great home-made Mexican Caesar dressing that I will post some time soon but once again…this was a week night!

Turkey and White Bean Chili with Cilantro Quinoa


  • a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small poblano or pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/4 pounds  (one package) ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon masa harina (sub all purpose flour if you don’t have it)
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • one 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • one mexican beer (or a few if you want to drink some) 🙂
  • two 15 to 16-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • Quinoa
  • fresh chopped cilantro
  • squeeze of lime juice
  • Assorted garnishes, such as chopped red or green onion, crumbled cotija cheese, black olives, sour cream and avocado


Heat the oil in a heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add the  poblanos, jalapeno and onions and garlic. Saute until the vegetables soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the turkey and brown until no longer pink, breaking up the turkey with the back of a spoon, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle the masa or flour over and stir to blend. Add the beer, tomato paste, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, sugar, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir until well blended and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the and beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Add more salt and pepper if it needs it.

While the chili is cooking, cook 1 cup of quinoa (follow package directions). I cooked mine with chicken stock for extra flavor but water is fine too. Once it is done mix in some fresh chopped cilantro and  a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spoon some of the Quinoa and Cilantro into a bowl and top with the Chili. Garnish with all the yummy extras.

Caesar Salad with Cornbread Croutons

For the croutons I made a package of Marie Calendar’s Cornbread. Then I just cubed it up after it had cooled, put the cubes on a foil lined baking sheet, and sprayed it with some EVOO (I have a cool olive oil pump that I love). Season with salt and pepper then bake at 350 for about 20 min. Give them a turn about half way through.
For the salad I just tossed some good crisp romaine with some Caesar dressing, roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and the croutons.

Ingredient Notes:

Masa Harina is the Mexican corn flour used to make the masa (dough) for tamales. It’s a great thickener for chili so I usually have it on hand.
The Quinoa I use is from “Bob’s Red Mill”. It’s a really good organic Quinoa that has been pre-rinsed so you don’t have to rinse it. Quinoa can be bitter if it is not rinsed really well before cooking. Bob’s Red Mill is a great brand and I use a lot of their products. It’s sold in most grocery stores where ever the natural or health food section is.
I also tried a new Caesar dressing. The brand is “Rao’s” and I thought it was really good. If you know me, you know that I’m sort of an freak about ingredients and I check labels thoroughly on any packaged foods. This dressing is all natural and as close to something I would make at home as I could find. I here Trader Joe’s has a good one too.